Friday, June 30, 2006

The Gaza Mess

So I sat back and kept quiet for a few days. I figured being over here in Capitalism Central (CC) with singing birds, bellowing frogs, jumping fish and independent Heron, I should enjoy nature's beauty and observe.

However, I can't ignore what's happening 'oer yonder in HLC because this is the frightening glued-to-the-radio-and-television stuff that seasonally throws the entire country into a frenzy of debate, angst and fury.

Hamas shouldn't have taken him. Stupid move. And my guess is that the faction members who came up with the bright idea of nabbing a soldier with the perverse notion of using him as a bargaining chip are now sweating it out.

But how to get rid of him and save face? They HAVE to be able to save face. All important in the eyes of their supporters who, regardless of what is said publicly to media members, will eventually turn their backs on the same people they voted in if the infrastructure continues to be destroyed. Back in the day, did you ever hear declarations of disdain for Arafat uttered publicy by his brethren? Get them behind closed doors, however, and it was a different matter entirely.

Egypt's involvement in this crisis is a good thing because they bring into the mix the good cop voice of reason that will allow Hamas to save face. I hope. If Hamas kills Gilad Shalit the offensive will worsen, I fear. Which may be the card they decide to play since ultimately, the longer Israel stays or pushes further in, the worse Israel's public image.

Should Israel have gone back in? I'll have to mull that over. Cutting electricity and water to half a million people and unilaterally arresting cabinet members is not on. However, what is the ultimate objective? To release a soldier and send several clear messages? Or to re-occupy? That is not a motive.

If Hamas has an eye on longevity and ultimately playing on the international field, they're going to have to cut out the cowboy tactics and reign in the missile lobbing. Even Arafat had to eventually give up hijacking.

My two cents. Back to la la...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

There's Something About America...

...that makes me shout with's equal opportunity for every girl and boy...

If you grew up in the U.S. of A., you are familiar with that song and maybe now it's stuck in your head for the day. So sorry. Couldn't resist providing viewers with a golden listening opportunity. (yes, I AM aware of the fact that this is not radio).

While traipsing across the grassy field along the lake en route home from the swimming pool yesterday, young Raph and I came across 8 geese, 4 goslings, a bullfrog hopping from the grass into the water, Bass jumping up out of the lake in attempts at catching low buzzing dragonflies, a light blue baby Robin's eggshell, a lone Heron and two bird's nests occupied by nesting mothers-to-be.

Schoingemacht. We're living in Wild Country Safari.

I love my busy urban lifestyle - zigzagging on bicycle alongside waste emitting, horn honking, road-raging vehicles and drivers. But for a short reprieve, this country thing has got it goin' on. The last time I saw fireflies was when I was twelve. Raph has never seen them.

We head into the weekend with July 4 fireworks, a get-together with Raph's newfound Chinese/Thai friend, poolside relaxation, family visits and various other outings on the agenda. I am feeling increasingly relaxed about being here and nature aside, I absolutely adore the public library where I have been named "Official Library Harlot of 2006".

I miss HLC (Holy Land Central) and am watching and reading as the events unfold. Sheeeet. Sticky, crappy stuff. I withold comment for the time being.

Monday, June 26, 2006


My ma dragged me off to HomeArama yesterday, an annual 2-week display of a dozen newly developed estates/mansions/very large houses within close radius of each other. Gawkers traipse through the dwellings to see the latest in these parts in design and decor while behind-the-scenes architects, landscapers and interior planners get to strut their stuff. Average per home selling price: $2 million.

This way of spending a day - schlepping up and down stairs and in and out of houses and commenting "Ooh, look at the material they used for the formal dining room drapes" or "Isn't the brass chandelier a touch too heavy for the library?" is absolutely not my idea of a good time. I loathe it, in fact.

I get all tired and toochas-draggy and irritable and am barely able to contain my disgust for "faux marble" "faux terra cotta floors" and "faux faux" interiors. Ditto the exteriors made up of such a mish-mosh of brick, stone, thatched roof and look alike stucco/Tudor design that my only guess is that the drunk French designer responsible for it all was pining for Provence but got lost in suburban hell after spending a weekend in Vegas. Why not knock out a few bedrooms and use the real real? Or stick with a single time period in designing the facade? Never mind. Touring makes my ma happy. So I sacrifice.

Then I open up the latest news wire and feel guilty as hell for spending the day surrounded by "faux" when very real stuff is going down in HLC (Holy Land Central). I look at the picture of Gilad Shalit and imagine him as a kid more comfortable taking up a round of Dungeons and Dragons than patrolling anything anywhere. My heart hurts for his parents. I remember Nachshon Waxman. And I am reminded of how very difficult it is to be outside HLC when the type of news that pulls the country apart and together happens.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Grand Scale Grand

Here in Capitalism Central (CC), I'm still grappling with the grandness of things and the excess stuff. Closets filled with barely-used or forgotten chatchkes. Air conditioning running 24/7. "Compact Cars" the size of minivans. A Starbuck's small sized latte three times the size of the same priced small coffee back in Tel Aviv.

Last night we went to family friends' for dinner. They live on two acres (8 dunams) in a sprawling, high-ceilinged ranch style home that two summers ago accommodated 20 guests. "They" are an executive secretary and a real estate agent. No kids, no pets, no adopted or foster children running around. Boggle, boggle, boggle. What do they do with all that space? They chase each other a lot my father jokes. Ha ha.

My mother is currently interviewing "closet designers". People who maximize closet functionality, rendering each and every walk-in the ultimate in storage utilitarianism. As she and a pen and pad clutching "agent" toured the house Friday morning, I fell into such an uncontrolled fit of laughter over the notion of paying someone to rearrange "the stuff", that my mom excused herself, entered my room and threatened to lock me in one of those storage spaces if I didn't pipe down. How did she know what I was laughing about?

The flip side of bounty is the refined to near perfection service industry. Soooooooo smooth the service with a (plasticine) smile is. It's all easy and good and fun and inexpensive. Hence the stuff inside the closets.

My friend Rebecca Morgenstern used to joke about her mother's habit of picking up stuff for her and then ringing her up in a glee-filled state: "I got you two pairs of size 8 shoes in two different colors!" Ma, I'm a size 7 Becca would groan. "Never mind, honey. We'll stuff them with Kleenex. They were on sale!"...The kicker? Becca's a Columbia Environmental Program graduate. She lived in the Biosphere and studied eco-farming in Ecuador.

When Becca laughs hysterically, her mom threatens to take away all her shoes. We love our moms.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Kabul, KY

Over Asian fusion dinner last night with my parents and young Rapha - who played underneath the table throughout the meal with his new Superman action figure purchased at a third of the price it would've gone for back in Holy Land Central (HLC) - my father discussed work with my mother. They're both in the healthcare industry.

My pa's a "country doctor". He has a private practice in a small Kentucky town where people pack pistols in their purses and glove compartments 'cause you just never know when 'ol Grady or that troublemaker L. Ray might need a little straightening up, if ya know what I mean. My dad doesn't mind and he doesn't carry a gun but he also doesn't publicly spout Old Testament passages in his spare time.

He fixes up the Viola's, Ova's (pronounced "Oh Vee") and Bonnie Jean's of this world mid-week, sometimes getting paid in home grown green beans or sweet peas like the ones on our kitchen table at this very moment, then drives up north of the Mason Dixon Line to Cincinnati - former residence of Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe and a pit stop along the Underground Railroad route - on the weekends.

As an aside, to those who covered the 1982 Lebanon War/Invasion/Call it What You Like & joked about using the codename "Dixie" for clandestinely moving videotape out of Lebanon and into Israel, this is where the term comes from. Right here along the Ohio River. I digress.

Over his chicken dumplings and egg drop soup, dad is re-counting patient woes he sometimes encounters: bruises, cuts and general abuse at the hands of husbands.

"Why don't they dump the guys?" I ask.
Down there women are taught to stand by their men. Besides, they're isolated. No public transportation, husbands don't let them drive the cars, family in another county or no family to speak of
What about social services?
Social what? And there aren't any shelters. They're sort of trapped

Between bites of spicy tuna roll, I ask: Why in the hell is the U.S. off in other countries "liberating" women and offering up supposed modernization when you've got women prisoners living right here? Might as well get these women fitted for a burqas and send them off to Hijab Etiquette school...

I know my dad says. I'm with you. Pass the Kikkoman.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Amerikansky Child

We've been here in Capitalism Central for nearly a week and young Raphael is rapidly picking up on U.S.-isms...Although he professes to missing Holy Land Central (HLC), he enjoys the plenitude here. Not surprising his languishing opposite the television whenever possible since we don't have one at home. Haven't for nearly a decade. Not because I'm a "burn your television" fanatic. I simply found myself not partaking so off the Sony went to garage-sale land.

Between Rapha's Spongebob Squarepants, Teen Titans, Sesame Street and The Kids Next Door sessions, he runs to the hallway bellowing: Mom! I want Trix Yogurt. Mom! Can you get me one of those things I saw just now? Mom! Do we have Fruit Loops Cereal? Mom! Come quick! There's a toy I want you to see! I want it! Isn't it awesome? Will you get it for me?

Trix Yogurt? I can just imagine the psychedelic colors and additives. And since when did the word awesome make its way into his verbal repertoire?

When I succeed in dragging him away from the screening room and out into nature for a hike, (i.e. down the street to the swimming pool or from the mall parking lot into the mall), he complains and whines. "It's hot. I want to go back home. I don't like this. I'm tired." Hot? Did he forget from whenst we just came?

As an alternative to standard television watching, we upgraded to plus-size viewing yesterday: A traipse to the cinema to view the latest Pixar film Cars. It opened here 2 weeks ago and is slated to open in HLC and Europe in July.

The scripting is weaker and sans clever nuances of previous Pixar greats Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles but it's enjoyable, feel-good-happy-ending and the computer animated desert scenes are breathtaking. Is Pixar planning an airplane-themed future movie? There was a strong suggestive hint of it in one of Cars' scenes.

Next week Raph is off of television and on to boot camp i.e. summer camp. Won't that be fun? Pshawww. Doubtful, initially. Unless, of course, they're offering Trix Yogurt for midday snack.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Going to Hell at High Speed

On a collision course here in Capitalism Central, Rapha and I are speeding towards Hell as quickly as we possibly can. Our day thus far:

1) Wake up 5:30 for me/7 a.m. for Rapha
2) Eat a bowl of sugar-coated breakfast cereal with skim milk
3) Dress, futz around, pack bag for swimming pool
4) Walk to swimming pool, spend an hour and a half reading and lazing in sun 5) Return home before midday, eat snack, nap
6) Rapha takes up Day 3 of Cartoon Watching Vigil
7) Wake up, bathe, snack, check computer and putter around in mom's boudoir applying lipsticks, mascaras, eye pencils, glosses, powders and sheens. I feel like a Stepford Wife. **
8) Rapha eats spaghetti
9) Phone talk with younger brother
10) Raph baths under threat of being barred from watching Nick forever and ever, amen.

We're Bored.
Without vehicle or family for entertainment, staying in a complex at least a mile from shopping lifelines, without public transport...cut off. This sucks. But thank goodness for things temporary. Vehicle from manana at which point television rationing, physical activity and public outings will ensue.

More to come...

**14 Lancome lipsticks, 18 lip and eye liners, 6 eye shadow compacts and countless brushes, glosses, blushes and creams in my mom's stuff. Poor Patty. What a disappointment I must have been!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

God Save the Queen

Just kidding...I'm not vacationing in England. I'm back in the U.S. of A. or Capitalism Central (CC) to spend the summer w/my parents and youngest brother, give Raph a chance to hang w/grandparents (and visa versa) and fly out to San Fran next month to visit middle brother and friends... Wonderful being here despite a bit of hell getting away.

Spent most of pre-flight day in the hospital emergency room being stitched after a bicycle accident. Thank goodness for friends who looked after Raphael and for a wound slightly too shallow to require tendon repair surgery docs originally thought necessary. A tip from E.R. PhD's: If you ride a bike, WEAR A HELMET! (not that that helps if you cut open your ankle, as I did)

Mucho change of scenery this is from Holy Land Central (HLC). As I sit typing, if I shift my gaze to the right and out the floor to ceiling windows, I see the rippling waters of the lake part of ma & pa's lakefront condo, lush green grass, Sycamore saplings and adult geese with goslings in tow. So much serenity and greenery that young Raph asked if Papa Itzik and Safta Ruti live in a forest.

And yet no people are to be seen in the hood aside from the ones getting in and out of cars. My mom says someone was shooting at the geese on the lake last week. She saw a few struggling in the water after hearing the shots. And yet when she reported the incident, condo management had seen or heard not a thing. How can that be?

Shopping abounds as do sanguine, public dispositions. The abundance leaves me with sensory overload and boggles: I'm in one city within one state within a country of many similar cities and states. There is so much of everything. Space, cars, people, houses, restaurants, strip malls. I feel insignificant and overwhelmed.

I find myself contemplating issues such as distribution and consumption of global resources, alternative fuel resources, the future of water sources and the Constitutional right to bear arms.

Not to sound glum. This is wonderful, we're having fun spending time together again and we're privileged.

However, I still choose HLC over CC. Any day.

More to come...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


One of the beautiful bits about being back here in the Mid-East is the close proximity to Europe and consequently the current exposure to the Mondiale, as it is termed here, or The World Cup in football - er, non-American football, that is.

I'm not a fan and I don't even follow the games. I like the sport if it's live and yeah, I know Switzerland and France tied tonight and that Brazil and Croatia are currently on the field together but otherwise? I probably won't tune in again until the final match.

Walking home from the playground this evening, however, I counted five cafes within a 2-block radius all sporting large screens for game viewing. Each venue was full of people sitting at the outdoor tables and sipping beer, coffee or soda while eyeballing the game.

I love that. Back in San Fran I had to seek out the Irish pubs or French cafes to watch games publicly. Here I can pop downstairs and grab a seat at my local cafe and watch the game if I so choose. I won't but having the option brightens my day, nonetheless...

Child Talk

A wee share:

Yesterday, during our trek home from the beach along Tel Aviv's tree-lined Nordau Boulevard, 4-year-old Raphael plops himself down on a park bench for the 3rd successive time.

I'm tired he sighs
How come? I ask
I think it's because I'm old

rapha & max

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gaza Horror

There really isn't a lot to say about what happened on the beach in Gaza Friday. "Massacre" "errant shell" "retaliation" "we're checking into the facts surrounding the incident" "state of high alert"...

The rhetoric, reactionary statements, cover-up and various uses of this incident to either vent frustration over the current state of Gaza bedlam or sit snugly behind it with a trumped up sense of edification is tired. All of it. Tired, tired, tired.

What isn't tired is 7-year-old Hadeel Ghalia's plight. No parents. Five siblings gone.

They were hanging out at the beach for the day. Picnicking on beach blankets.

She is only a few years older than my son.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Reality Check

Not long after putting up this post, I was trolling around planet blog and hit Salam Pax's neighborhood. Pax, a Baghdad photographer for Newsnight, presents the shocking reality of Baghdad today where you can be killed for sporting a goatee, wearing a "colorful" shirt or having the wrong last name. A sample "mild" entry:

One of my parents’ friends house was robbed last week. It’s a
big house but they are both retired and they don’t really have much, which
really pissed off the 6 armed men who barged into the house late that

While the house was being ransacked they found the couple’s
passports. Chief-thief threw it at them and asked a VERY wise question: “When
you two have passports can you tell me what you are still doing here?”

I ask myself the same question almost everyday. And clearly
answering “this is home” really isn’t cutting it anymore.

Go to the homepage and scroll down a bit to his May 16 entry for a shocker (sorry, no direct link). And to think that my mind's on Margaritas and swimming pools. Bloody hell.

Japan-Israel, et al

For her gig with Global Voices Online, Lisa recently posted about Sharvul, an Israeli blogger who lived in Tokyo for a stretch and moved back to Holy Land Central (HLC) last year. His writing style almost feels like a mentality meld of Japanese sifted through the English language with hints of Israeli sprinkled on top. I.e. subtlety with clarity and straightforwardness.

Check out his Japan Vignettes for intriguing insights into a culture I, for one, know next to nothing about.

Lisa also wrote that bloggers who claim to be too busy to file are usually just too out of it. Yes, that would be me.

Truth be known, I'm heavy into readying for summer in CC. Capitalism Central. America. Land of the free (unless you're Native American forcibly removed from your land or Mexican cutting grapes at pittance wages or African American brought over on a slave ship). Wave the flag, go grab yourself a slice of pie and pull up to the tube.

Which is what I'll be doing while spending a few months with the parents in Cincy and seeing friends in San Francisco. That and lounging poolside, indulging in hours of DVD watching, prowling for big bargain sale items, tearing it up with small child at amusement parks, doing light prep or front of house work for chef brother, drinking salt-rimmed Margaritas on the rocks and occasionally indulging in the obligatory sibling/parental unit feud. Oh yeah, and hitting cultural events like museums and art exhibits and gourmet eateries.

No funny ideas from anyone reading this and thinking of cleaning out the joint while we're gone (how self centered was that?). A Berkeley professor and her daughter will be staying here, thanks to globalization and Craigslist.

I highly recommend house swapping if you want to travel but also want the feeling of well being that comes with someone staying in your digs, watering plants, caring for animals, etc. while you're away. & if you're strapped for cash, it's a beautiful thing. I've been on both ends - renting from and renting to - in numerous locales.

A few good resources are the aforementioned, all-purpose Craigslist. For Hebrew readers Homeless rocks. If it's Israel you're specifically looking for, put up a posting on any of the Yahoo hosted, English language lists - Jaanglo (Jerusalem Anglo), Taanglo (Tel Aviv Anglo) and Raanana List and in no time flat you'll get replies. Visit Yahoogroups and go through the sign up motions.

What about the trust issue and handover of $$? Instinct, wire transfers, cousins and friends for putting up cash, contracts, trust. Follow the gut. That one is huge. If it doesn't feel right DON'T DO IT!!! (no matter how nice the person seems)

Signing off for now. Gifts to purchase, loose ends to tie...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Can't Take The Heat

I personally adore heat. Muggy, humid, hot, "walking through a vat of chicken soup" as my pal Jeff would say.

Sundresses, strappy sandals, sun cream & sweat. I'm in heaven.

The electric company is not.

Burdened by system overload, Israel's electric company initiated rolling blackouts yesterday which, according to this report, will cost the state mucho dineros.

Exactly like being back in California! Perhaps now the Electric Company will also privately divest?


Sunday, June 04, 2006

No Black, No Eyes, No Peas

Remember how a few weeks ago I was animated and highly charged over the impending Black Eyed Peas concert?

And remember how I wrote about getting a ticket through my cousin?

Last night was the concert. I didn't go. My seat went to a 20-year-old who was desperate to see the group but hadn't scored a ticket to the sold out show.

Before ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the seeming kindness of what appears to be a selfless gesture on my part, know that the move was borne of desire for personal gain: Surmising I'd be the oldest person in the crowd and preferring to opt for Yoga class instead, I willingly bowed out.

Today on the street I happened upon a random, 60-something-year-old stranger wearing a Black Eyed Peas tee-shirt.

How was the concert?!
Do I know you?
No. I saw the tee-shirt.
Oh that! It was awesome. Fantastic.
(expletive) don't tell me that! I gave up my ticket thinking I'd be the oldest person there!
You're stupid then, aren't you?

First of all, welcome to Israel. Why cushion the blow when you can just say it like it is?
Second, this afternoon the 20-year-old showed me post-concert images of herself with - she found out where the band was holding late night court and made her way to the club - and bootleg video snippets of the concert itself.

So there! I got my Zen on and a 2nd hand piece of the action too!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Today's Bible Lesson..

We're on holiday once again here in Holy Land Central (HLC) . Shavuot - a multi-tasking sort of celebratory day. It marks the harvest, the end of Omer counting (a spiritual prep for receiving the Torah or Jewish law), receiving of first fruits, and Moses getting the Torah up on Mt. Sinai. There are a few other things but I'm too lazy to look them up. It's hot outside.

I got to thinking about that Mt. Sinai bit and Moses and all and I have to say I'm just a hair confused. Based upon the little I gleaned from Rabbi Barzwan's Hebrew school teachings back in 4th grade, Moses was given the 10 Commandments from God up there on the mount and then he hiked all the way back down, bearing the burden of those cumbersome slates on behalf of his people.

He gets back to camp and there are those crazy Israelites indulging in idolatry and general moral mayhem. Angry he was, indeed. Moses had anger management issues. In fact, he smashed the two tablets to bits to prove just how very put off he was by his people's behavior.

God's reaction: Okay, now you're on your own, Big M. Get yee to the nearest engraver and remake the tablets solo. Go on with yourself. Scoot! And so Moses had to re-do the tablets on his own and then re-present them to his people.

Now I know that the Torah and the 10 Commandments are separate chapters. But it all being the same setting, the same mountain and the same timeframe I figure my observation/question is legit:

Why in the heck did big G (that would be God) wait until Moses hit the rock, much later on in the saga, to banish him from Canaan? (that would be Holy Land Central). In other words, when Moses hit the rock with his staff to draw water instead of talking to it, as God had instructed, God blew: Final Straw Big M. You're out. No Canaan. No glory. Joshua, you're up. Get dressed and let's go!

Now had I been Big G at the time, my inclination definitely would've been to cut off the pass to Canaan at the first juncture when Moses threw the tablets. Think about it: Smash tablets with moral codes to be handed down for millennia versus hit a rock with your cane to get a sip of water...Hmmm??? Am I right or am I right?

Yes, this is the Cliff's Notes version. But as always, you get the point.

Chag Sameach (happy holiday)