Sunday, July 30, 2006

Flip Sides

Everyone was pushing and shoving. Women were crying, saying, "Here's my passport, here's my children. Take my children, just take them." Monika Esseily, describing her evacuation from Beirut with her family after the start of Israeli airstrikes...from Newsweek Magazine

You can't imagine the numbers of refugees down here from the North. You see them around and you can tell - they don't have homes and they won't stay up there with the rockets landing every day. My own son is terrified even though we're in Tel Aviv. He refused to leave the house for an entire week. Relayed by Tel Aviv friend during IM conversation

Saturday, July 29, 2006

San Francisco Candids

Building a street shelter; Homeless in San Francisco

Friends: Antonio & Bo


Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Day @ The Ranch

I hesitated to input this entry because yesterday was a sad, shit day back in Holy Land Central. My daily goings-on seem trivial. I think about parents and children and my own son and our future. And all the while, I miss home. Home being Holy Land Central.

That noted, I'm blogging my day anyhow because...just because.

Yesterday I drove from San Fran due north to lunch with friends/work associates who toil at Lucas Ranch. Skywalker Ranch is its proper name. It's the creative and work venue of George Lucas. No I didn't see him. He's apparently in Europe at present moment.

I did see, however, the pristine white mansion or "Main House" - an office space (HIS office space)/dining area/relic display fashioned after a sprawling Southern mansion with beveled glass windows, a wrap-around porch, stained glass skylights, original oil paintings by Norman Rockwell et al and a two-floor oak library.

Set completely inconspicuously amidst the rolling hills of Nicasio California, the 4700 acre (nearly 20,000 dunam) ranch also houses horses, barnyard animals, a few thousand employees, The George Lucas Foundation and Industrial Light and Magic. I was itching to stare boldfaced into the security camera at the gated entrance and proclaim: "Edna Mode". Wrong movie. Wrong production house.

After touring the ranch and dining on grilled shrimp over cous cous with grilled zucchini, Kalamata olives and marinated artichoke hearts, my friend/colleagues showed me some of the Star Wars relics housed in glass cases: original Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker light sabers, the model images of Jaba the Hutt and Boba Fett and numerous recognition awards for outstanding film achievement.

We then moseyed to my friend/colleagues' offices and then to the gift shop to purchase a few memorabilia.

I could go on and on about the setting, the feel and the impression. This is special stuff, it was a wonderful, unique opportunity and the day was fab. But my heart hurts, the timing is off and I'm torn between wanting to return home to HLC and wishing I could remain on perpetual vacation, not wanting to face the mood and atmosphere there.

No original images of the ranch to share, unfortunately. Against security rules. Over & Out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Proxy Penetration

While pausing between intense politi-talk with Colleen on Sunday, I pondered a few issues.

Colleen grew up in the mountains beyond Beirut. She was raised Christian in a French-speaking home and her family exited Lebanon in her fifteenth year. She remembers the country's civil war and vividly recalls traveling by taxi from Beirut to Tel Aviv via Cairo in 1982 - months prior to Israel's arrival on the scene to root out PLO operatives.

She has family in Hamra - an upscale, culturally diverse West side area characterized by universities and home to the country's prime minister, Fouad Siniora. Her family recently evacuated.

Colleen and I discussed the region's history, the current incursion, the struggle of mainstream Arabs to live mainstream lives while surrounded by extremists and the sense among many Arab mainstreamers that the U.S. is vilifying Arabs and Islam in an attempt to suppress or eradicate the Arab world, leaving no choice but to identify with extremists who will fight for their ultimate survival.

The issue I pondered was Israel's role, my living in Holy Land Central and all. And while I am fully aware that the current war/conflict/incursion/offensive is much larger than a handful of kidnapped soldiers and several hundred rockets, it struck me full force while speaking with Colleen.

And I was perturbed: Is Israel akin to the kid in the classroom who the other kids agree to pick for their soccer (football) team only if he first takes out all the trash and cleans the blackboards? I read Yossi Ben-Ari's commentary and thought Bingo. This is about the U.S., Syria, Iran, global extremism, nuclear weapons, etc. etc. and Israel is the country getting its hands dirty. Israel can handle the condemnation, the criticism - mostly symbolic thus far - and being the fall guy. What's new?

Not that Israel is a completely reticent partner but I have been thinking about trade-offs, partnerships, deals and the price paid for receiving foreign aid and retaining certain weaponry privileges, wink wink. And what about costs of re-building?

For that matter, what about re-building Lebanon? That's a heart breaker, truly. Here they go again. It's a paradox and I don't claim to have the answer but Lebanese moderates are paying an incredibly heavy toll. And so are Israel's citizens and businesses. As Ben Ari notes, proxy maneuvers should be considered cautiously. Terms should be firm. It's no accident that Olmert looks so strung out.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Were it This Easy...

Yesterday was spent in San Francisco's "East Bay" area with old friends.

Pictured are Naheed in the foreground with her children and colleague Colleen in the background...

"Nah" is originally from Tehran; Colleen grew up in the mountainous region beyond Beirut.

Of course politics were discussed; it's somewhat unavoidable considering the current climate.

It's so much easier from these safe and calm environs.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Should & Should Have's

Here I am back in San Francisco - the gorgeous and highly aesthetic city I called home for a decade prior to relocating back to Holy Land Central (HLC).

I should be writing about the mixed impressions of being here: the incredible eclectic hodge podge of multi-culties living within the city's 7.2 mile radius, visiting former haunts and old friends and feeling the glib of a jammed social calendar within hours of landing, inhaling the vibe of funky vintage shop fashion, beaming over a hand crafted 10-foot high bicycle piloted down a public street by a teenage Mad Max type, the hideous face of pervasive homelessness and a burly bearded gentleman strutting downtown in his lace and pearl bordered white wedding dress.

However, circumstances prevail...

I received multiple messages my first morning in San Fran from the person back in HLC looking after my flat. I phone her. "Did you have anything of value in your apartment?" she asks.

We all know what that question meant.

And while the burglars were inside, the cat apparently ran away. Two hits in one. What a bargain. Burgled apartment and no cat. That definitely made an impact on sightseeing entertainment value yesterday.

So what in the hell is a person to do from THOUSANDS of miles away?? How does one assess what might have been taken? No damage, apparently, and I'm not worried about valuables since that was "seen to" prior to departure. But...???

Here's the clincher: It went down in the passing hours between one friend moving out of the flat and another moving in. Chew on that one while I order a room service cocktail at 6 a.m.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fresh From the Oven

I like funny. Funny, quirky, eccentric, creative, eclectic and lively.

While traipsing through Blogoland over the past days I came across those very elements and felt the need to share.

First of all, there's Noorster. I've been reading her for some time. She's got the funny, lively and totally eclectic going on at all times with just the right dash of taboo. No telling what one might find in the garden upon passing through the gate of her realm. A full on rant? A recant of service industry woes told from her I loathe this type work vantage point? Or a link to porn fashion? (sorry, can't find that particular link anymore, hee hee)...Her writing rocks as does her photography...She definitely gets my vote for the hottest Hungarian/Israeli/Struggling Rock Star Idol.

Via Ms. Noorster I arrived at Nominally Challenged's A Whiff of the Med. OMG! Laughed so hard the tears rolled. From the lexicon, I gather Nominally is an ex-London drag queen transplanted to Tel Aviv. As a warm up, try this bit about the electric outage on for size. Now graduate to the taxi story....See what I mean?

And THEN, via following assorted comment trails, I found this gem, Overheard in New York. Do yourself a favor and scroll. Some of it is unbelievable.

Over & out. Flying to San Francisco tomorrow. Can't wait.

Ms. Williams, I Presume

Last night's match was fab. Serena looked strong, played well and pretty much breezed through the match beating Russian opponent Nastasia Myskina 6-2, 6-2 for the best of three.

There were a few exciting volleys, the play was fluid and Ms. W's lime green shirt, matching headband and white, scalloped tennis skirt really worked on the fashion side of matters.

I kinda felt sorry for Ms. Myskina what with the "Serena!" "Go Serena!" "We Love You Serena!" "REEEENA!" randomly yelled out by enthusiastic fans eager to witness a Williams comeback after her six month hiatus. The umpire, more than once, called for quiet.

After my own personal, extremely looooong hiatus from viewing live tennis, it was quite a pleasant surprise to find scores of African American tennis officials, aficionados and casual observers in attendance.

Working summers throughout my teens at a local tennis club as a swim instructor/lifeguard, I viewed A LOT of tennis (and played on occasion as well). Aside from Arthur Ashe or my friend Ronny DeLyons who had a wee crush on me - and an embarrassing habit of grunting rather vocally during TENNIS volleys - I don't recall ever seeing people of color at the club or playing in tournaments.

And here's a passing stat: Serena's serve clocked in at an average 128 mph last night. Imagine getting nailed by one of those...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pet Peeve

Here's a share: I loathe Hummers. But really. Seeing them on city streets sends me to Berserkville.

City and highway cruising is NOT what they're meant to be doing; Why in the hell does ANYONE need a military vehicle - because that's what General Motors originally built them for - in the middle of Cincinnati? To handle those tight corners at McDonald's Drive Thru?

And excuse me but the last time I saw anything off-road around these parts it was a flock of gosling being led to the local pond by their ma. Extreme African terrain is one thing as is evacuating wounded soldiers. But driving the kids to soccer practice at a ratio of 9-16 miles per gallon while natural fuel resources disappear? I just don't get it.

Another thing: After reading Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight I add Land & Range Rovers to the list. For those not rushing out to the local bookstore, it's a memoir recapping author Alexandra Fuller's childhood in 1970's Rhodesia with her English, colonizing family as the war begins.

One chapter includes a dramatic description of travel through unpaved, extremely rough terrain in the family Land Rover, getting stuck and making it out of back country wilderness solely based on the car's superb engineering - intended for just that.

Why in the hell do people need the same vehicle for shuttling to board meetings?

Rant Complete. Over & out.

Did I Mention...???

...that my ticket is for center court, Loge? (yup, I'm stoked)

...Or that this is her first match since January and this tournament might be the deal breaker that will either prompt Williams into a comeback or usher her away from tennis altogether?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pausing for a Moment

Okay I'm leaving politicking and general doom and gloom for a sec to dance around the room in a semi-delirious state of joy...

I'm going to see Serena Williams play a tourney Tuesday night. Just ordered the tickets...Yahoo! Can't Wait!

Can't always say I agree with Ms. Williams' fashion choices but i do love live tennis...gloat gloat

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My Idea of Hell

Indulge me for a moment as I recap: Being in Capitalism Central (CC) while it all goes down in Holy Land Central (HLC) is HELLLLLLLLLL!!!!!

Helpless feelings of frustration overwhelmed today as images of Haifa's wrecked train station and pools of blood along the platforms filled the screen. Forget logic; being here is surreal and non-sensical for me right now.

HOWEVER, the vacation was planned with intentions of spending time with my parents; that's what we're doing. I find it amusing that when e-mailing or IM'ing my American friends, they ask if I plan to return to HLC when our vacation ends. Israelis, on the other hand, commiserate: Being there must be difficult while this is happening.

Responses vis a vis "the situation" are mixed. A few write that all is routine and that Israelis being Israelis, the beach and cafes are populated and life goes on. More than a few say they're worried. Extremely. A Tel Aviv friend wrote that her daughter's summer camp had a special visitor today: an officer who explained what to do if the air raid sirens go off. She and Raphael are classmates.

As I write, Rapha watches cartoons in the adjoining room...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Vanity Plates

See the car?

Now look a bit closer

Someone has a sense of humor...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ornithology, et al

Well, we certainly chose THE summer to be away from Holy Land Central (HLC), hmmm? I'll comment in a moment although being out of pocket while everything goes down evokes guilt feelings vis a vis adding my two cents. Despite keeping up with Hebrew and local English language press accounts, I'm not there to live it so commenting feels uncool. I'll contribute in a broader sense. But first, a word from our sponsor:

This ornithology business is good stuff. Watching the Finch Family - or White breasted Robin - is a daily event. A mere few weeks ago the wee ones hatched and are already on the brink of departing nest-dome. There are now four - one unfortunate fell to its death this week. Raph & I found the poor critter in the grass.

Wanna know how the parents teach them to fly? One stands slight out of reach of the babes who see the adult and begin chirping madly and flapping wings wildly in attempting to move closer. Partner #2, stationed nearby, flies to eye level and hovers, also flapping. Schoingemacht; A live demo.

Not flighty whatsoever is what's happening oer' there yonder in HLC. Remember back in 1999 when the U.S. led NATO force bombed China's embassy in Belgrade? If you do, then you remember that world events and the timing were extremely precarious and that U.S. relations with China, already tenuous, took a hit.

This sorta feels like that time. You have North Korea threatening South K. and Japan, Iran throwing rhetoric while shaking a nuclear fist in the background, the U.S. tied up militarily on two major fronts but implying they'd like to give Syria and Iran a thrashing and sanction N. Korea, S. Korea cutting food aid to the North after the latter storms out of talks and China and Russia sidling up together presenting a unified front not sympatico with U.S. interests (read: or Israel or Japan) anytime soon.

Meanwhile Israel's got two military operations going on with reserves being called up, and mouthpieces are broadly hinting for Syria, Lebanon and Iran to get it together or else. Throw in a Mumbai bombing and historical India/Pakistan tension and the nuclear threat inherent with any of the above-mentioned parties and WHEW! What a huge mess of a mess. The positive? Saudi Arabia publicly denounced Hizbollah.

Shabbat Shalom. Be safe.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Weather Worries

There we were driving home from an evening outing when the cry of air raid sirens issues all around. WTF?

Last time I heard sirens was during the Gulf War. But the bold blast back then was so very different from this thin & tinny bleating that it didn't prompt freak-out or even flashback mode.

At least not as related to missiles. This is tornado territory. I know it logically so the audio cue unearthed buried memories of a different sort: huddling together with siblings aged 3, 7 and 13 in our basement as the wail surrounded. I was ten at the time; we were amazingly calm and mature despite our parents' absence (they were racing home to reach us following a therapy session).

At least once a year in these parts the sky turns eerie green/grey/yellow and the air suddenly stills signaling tornado build-up. If enough humidity, rising heat and thunderstorm action gets going, a watch and then warning are issued and then a full blown: Get Ye in the Basement Now! is broadcast.

In 1999 a tornado touched down here killing four and rendering $9.2 million in damages. I was living in San Fran at the time but was highly unsettled - as were my siblings - to learn it touched down two blocks over from my ma's house. She slept through it. And was angry when her neighbor phoned, waking her early the next morning. Go look out the window the neighbor prompted my obviously irritated mother. WTF? (except my mom doesn't swear)

Bizarre to go down to the basement as an adult with my son tonight. He was terrified and wide eyed, particularly when the television issued a buzz and emergency tone - the high pitched monotone they always remind is "only a test of the emergency broadcast system"- except when it isn't, like this evening.

All's well. No touchdown here. Damage in other parts of the city however but no deaths or injuries. La dee dah. That'll be enough of that memory, thanks.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sharing the Moment

A few images to share - not asked for but hell, that's the nature of the blog.

The house I grew up in and still dream about on occasion (AWAY from the burbs), the "peace garden" at Cincinnati's Zoo and a dormant white lion. Want a shocker? Go to an "enlightened" zoo and read how many animals are on the extinction danger list, elephants and certain frog species included. The only white lions left these days are in captivity. I vowed, prior to motherhood, not to support zoos or visit one. Mamash.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Still Chill

A month here in Capitalism Central and we're still hangin' tight. Days are filled with outings - nature hikes in pine populated public parks (say that quickly four times), swimming pool dip-ins, dusk fireworks displays, ventures downtown where beautiful Gothic and Victorian architecture add to the lively open-air urbanity.

Burb life is simply not my thang. Yes, it is incredibly calming to look out over a lake each morning. And for the past three weeks I've observed what appear to be Warbler Finches nested in the awnings of the porch off my bedroom. Last week five (!) new additions hatched and the parents have since been frantically flying about each day, all day, bringing them food. I thought I had it rough? These two tag-team each other on sorties from sunup to sundown.

Raph, influenced by sudden exposure to television and grandiosity, is hyper junk-food and retail aware. I am regulating the television but on those slow days that writing assignments call for hours at a stretch, I disappear into computer and he disappears into the Cartoon Network....His sugar intake has definitely increased. What a constant battle THAT would be if we lived here full time. But then, we wouldn't have t.v. on this continent either so it would be less of an issue.

Overall, one thing that occurred to me EARLY on in our arrival is that extended visits with family are for brave souls. Not only is the past hanging out at every imagined corner, the potential future is right there should we choose to observe it in our parents. And not to forget the present with all its virtues and pains.

Parents help out with the present bits by blurting things most friends or acquaintances wouldn't. The truths we harbor yet avoid: Our parenting mistakes, the diet ladder we've fallen off or the ailing & shabby wardrobe desperately in need of urgent attention.

Seeing parents age is also tough. Perhaps there's forgetfulness or a tremor or arthritic hands too pained to knot a little boy's shoe strings or a physician father's eyes unable to see the stitches that need removing.

The joy of unconditional love, comfort, generosity, nurturing and laughter until it hurts are unparalleled, however.

This visit has meant letting go of a few fantasies. While my parents love my son and adore me, they're not the babysit or take him out to Chuck E Cheese types and that's probably not age related. I wish they could live close by in Tel Aviv and I don't want to start thinking about our goodbyes at the end of August.

I'll enjoy for now. Why moan until necessary? But then again...

And for those who caught my Gaza operation "Summer Dream" hideous blunder...Geez! Tell me next time, okay?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The View From Here Operation Summer Rain (where did I get "Dream"?) forges on, the view from here is that it's going into overdrive. If a South Lebanon style buffer zone is what's deemed necessary to curb the effects of lobbed rockets, so be it. But remember how popular the self-declared security zone up north was during its nearly two-decade run? Why would anyone think it would be more successful down south where radicalism also prevails? Towards the end, the security zone was an endless mine field for Israeli soldiers creating bad press and unnecessary death.

And the fact that the U.S. and UN are otherwise preoccupied with North Korean missile-happy dictator Kim Jong Il is not adequate reason for hitting harder. Secure the soldier's release. But what's happening on the peripheries?

My two cents whilst sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned, gas powered, consumptive U.S. household.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Eye Opener

Want a revelation (or reminder)? Read this piece by IDF reservist Arik Diamant.

An excerpt:

...We brought him tied up, with a burlap sac over his head, to a Shin Bet
interrogation center known as "Scream Hill" (at the time we thought it was
funny). There, the prisoner was beaten, violently shaken and sleep deprived for
weeks or months. Who knows.
No one wrote about it in the paper.
European diplomats were not called to help him. After all, there was nothing out
of the ordinary about the kidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years
of occupation we have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit
was captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the
The piece goes on to advocate a prisoner release and question the morality of imprisonment without trial or sentencing. Worth a read.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I continue to watch as events unfold in Holy Land Central, the heat rising to boiling. Threats, rhetoric, leadership confusion, UN condemnation, futility, military strikes.... I wouldn't trade my life there for the current state of serenity here, however. Which literally looks like this:

Parky's Farm