Saturday, September 30, 2006

True Confessions

You know what I want to do? Eat lots of cereal and then go to sleep and then wake up and eat more cereal and then watch a movie and then go to sleep and after that eat cereal. I don't want to go out of the house all day. Just eat cereal and sleep and watch movies and play computer games all the time.

What made you think of that, sweetie? Did you see someone do that?

Yeah. My babysitter in San Francisco

....My four-year-old son Raphael...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Weenie Street

Today, Rapha & I visited a friend who lives on Pines Street.

In the transliteration of the word from Hebrew to English, it is spelled as above.

In Hebrew, however, it is pronounced "penis" as in the male organ.

To catch Raphael's reaction - after all, he is four and things like body parts and bodily functions amuse him to no end - I randomly stopped someone and asked: "Excuse me, can you tell me where Penis Street is?"

Rapha burst into laughter and doubled over. "Penis Street?!? Penis Street?!? Mom, did you just say PENIS STREET?!?"

More laughter as I nodded yes.

"Excuse me," he calls after the poor innocent Israeli scratching his head as he quickly scurries away. "Can you tell me where Poo Poo Street is? Hey Hey! Where is Butt Street?"

Sheesh. Four-year-olds. Can't take them into the public realm whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


See this little kid?
So did I this morning en route to taking Rapha to kindergarten.
See how it looks like his toochas might be hanging out?
It is.
And no, I have no idea either. And neither does the woman to his left holding the purse, for that matter.

Why would someone's mother take him for a bare toochas walk down a busy city street? Got me.

Or on the same theme, why would a seemingly together, non-inebriated/non-homeless guy sitting the next table over at a city cafe spit such an utterly gutturally horrific loogie into the potted plant beside him as to evoke the gag reflex and morbid curiosity surrounding his clearly un-gentrified upbringing?

I'm having a difficult time coming to terms with Holy Land Central these days. Indeed I am.


Happy Hebrew Calendar New Year to any and all comrades that celebrate (& those that don't)

Ours was busy. Friday night at a former colleague's for dinner. Beautiful setting out in the country, thirty+ people, flowing wine, flowing conversation, very good vibe, chill. Caught up with numerous people I hadn't seen in over a decade and met new ones. The not so good news: Many in attendance are top journalists who have been living in this region for ions. Some have been traveling in and out of Baghdad and neighboring countries for years. The consensus: The outlook for these parts ain't so good, mein kinder. Some are actively gearing up for the next showdown. Did I tell anyone anything they didn't know? Probably not.

Saturday night, another chill get-together at the Friday Soup Salon Lady's aka Dotty. Only this time she prepared a full on meal- incredibly moist stuffed chicken, sweet potato/regular potato mix, carrot soup... and it was fab. Other writer types in attendance included the coolio artist/writer Dan, the quick-witted Noorster and the benevolent Miriam, Dorothy's close friend. There were others - about 10 of us, I think - and the feel was good.

Now it's back to business as usual, whatever that means. I will post about landlords SOON because after reading both noorster and yael's documented experiences and going through my own FUN for the past year, I'm convinced we're on alien terrain when it comes to matters of housing and the tenant/landlord relationship. But that's another day.

Tia for now.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Look Ma, No Tumor!

A few days ago I wrote/joked about going for medical tests in the middle of the night.

Alas, I was being coy. With so much doom and gloom on the blog front lately - dog dying, cat disappearing and re-appearing, apartment burgled, etc. - I didn't want to go down more of the same dark tunnel.

THE TEST was actually a Cat Scan. I have a pretty virulent strain of glaucoma in one eye and my treating medical specialist was somewhat alarmed by the severity due to my relatively young age vis a vis the disease and the fact that it's only affecting one eye.

So that's what the fuss was all about. He ordered up a CT to ensure there was nothing adding to pressure behind the eye.

Now I will share that I was extremely nervous. And thinking about the end and all of that morose stuff.

But results are in and apparently I am tumor-free. Yahoo! Just in time for New Year. Praise the Lord (not that I'm religious or anything)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy New Year!

skating the day away
Originally uploaded by stefanella.stef.
Cool is a State of Mind...Tel Aviv, September 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

That Sh*t Ain't Funny!

Riding home from Jaffa today on the bus with Rapha, we began dueling with a straw (me) and the stick end of a balloon-on-a-stick (Rapha).

We were way at the back of the bus and it was half full. It was one of those double coaches meant to carry masses.

Suddenly, the balloon part of Rapha's "sword" popped. Loudly. Echoing throughout.

The driver slowed and many heads turned.

OMG! dawned with the implications of what had just happened.

When a balloon is not just a balloon.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Holy Land Central Melting Pot

Originally uploaded by stefanella.stef.
Coffee'ing in Tel Aviv this morning, I glanced over at this older woman sitting at the adjoining table. And noticed her arm.

Sometimes you forget things like that here in HLC. That there are people - your neighbors - who at one point in time lived the reality of work camps, death marches, gas chambers and tattoed arm numbers.

You forget but I can testify that when you glance over and remember, it's shocking.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

No Torching!

Okay, now everyone. Pope Benedict apologized. Publicly.

So please, please, please let's not do a rehash of the Danish cartoon aftermath.

No rioting, public car burnings, embassy stormings or church defacings.

And let's not take him to task vis a vis demanding a personal apology, you know I mean you Muslim Brotherhood. You want he should go house to house? The Vatican issued a statement. From him.

Yes, times are tense right now but be the bigger party and walk away Let's leave it at that and not inflame.

your friend, Stef

Friday, September 15, 2006

Tel Aviv Contrasts

Older woman at crowded Tel Aviv supermarket checkout:
Well I'll be. How can my bill be this high? Did I spend that much on these few things? Let me see. I'll have to go through this and make sure it's correct

Lady, you need to take your receipt over to the side and look at it there. You're holding up the entire line.

If I want to stand here and check my grocery bill then that's what I'll do! Don't you tell me what to do! Young people. So rude!

****five minutes later at busy intersection outside supermarket***

Same mature woman:
Do you feel better now that you rushed me? Here we both are at the same time so I see it did you a lot of good. Now help me cross the street. I don't see well and I'm afraid I'll fall

(yeah, of course I helped her)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fashion Sense

I can't be alone on this one: Every friggin' time I navigate to a web page with Mahmoud Abu Tir's image on it, I get a jolt.

Sorry I'm not able to post his picture here. Ever since I switched to this handsome pink layout on Blogger, I can't put up video, stills, nada, nothing. Meta beta blogger feechs.

But follow this and then come back.

See what I mean? He's a senior Hamas official meaning his face gets a decent amount of air time. Especially now that he's serving time in an Israeli jail under conditions that some claim violate international law.

Personal note to Mahmoud: Do something with that orange, wouldja? You look like a cross between a wanna be Herschel Shmoikel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofsky aka Krusty the Klown and the jovial rabbi in my neighborhood who keeps inviting us to Saturday lunch. Are Those the images you, a Hamas front man, wish to project to the world? Call me. I'll get you a stylist and image makeover person pronto.

your friend, Stef

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Pub and Hospital Anyone?

My opthamologist wants me to have a test done because of unusual pressure behind my left eye.

So I phone up the socialized medical system hotline appointment set up lady and tell her what I need. And that the doc said I need to get the test done relatively soon.

"We have an opening on the 20th at 2 a.m," she says in a blase, gravelly smoked too many cigarettes for too many years voice.

Like middle of the night 2 a.m.?

"Yeah. Or you can wait until October"

No. That's cool. I kinda like that. Go out for the evening and then swing by the hospital for some tests. Like: Oh would you look at the time! 1:30. Must dash off to an appointment! Bill please!

Not that I'll be out carousing at 1:30. But ambition is a good thing

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Life's Irony

Prior to taking up my current Holy Land Central (HLC) residence in Tel Aviv, I lived in San Francisco for nearly a decade. For three years of that time, I shared house with an Israeli woman in a quiet, mostly residential middle class neighborhood known as the Panhandle. It was unremarkable, flat and very mixed both racially and economically.

During routine walks with my Golden Retriever I slowly made friends with the neighbors. And being of a child-friendly nature but not having a full time wee one of my own, not long after moving into Vavi's house I began inviting a handful of kids over every so often to bake cookies.

We'd hang out in the kitchen where I would guide them through measuring, sifting, stirring and blending and I'd listen closely to their conversations and arguments and watch them gyrate and pull the latest dance moves to the beats of KMEL Jams on the radio. After an hour or so, they'd be out the front door en route home with plastic platefuls of baked goods.

I worried about some of the kids. Poor supervision, broken homes and ailing grandmothers doing their utmost to look after rambunctious teens being lured by cash-flashing, drug-dealing gang-bangers did not make for promising futures.

One of the kids - smooth talking and cunning in a smarmy way - I was certain was doomed. His crack-addicted father and mother had turned him over to his strict Baptist grandmother for upbringing. A good move. But she had so much on her plate already - raising other grandchildren, caring for a husband with Alzheimer's and arthritic and pushing eighty herself - that the odds seemed stacked.

This morning I received an e-mail from Vavi with a link to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Last month, 17-year-old Aubrey Abrakasa was gunned down gang-style with automatic weapons outside his home. Three doors down from Vavi's house. Police think someone text messaged him to come outside so they could pull the drive-by.

Aubrey isn't the kid I was worried about. Aubrey was quiet & barely spoke. He came over once to bake brownies but he never really said much. His smile and eyes were wide and his gaze was soft. His ex-Ghanaian father Baba and church-going mother Paulette seemed pretty strict; They knew the score when it came to gangs.

The other kid - the one I worried about - is in college. Yes, he sports baggy jeans, gold rings and had a tooth capped gold ("What's that all about?" I prodded in recent years; he avoided answering). But so far he has made it through.

I'm sad for Aubrey's parents. I wonder what in the hell happened and if he might have been mixed up in something. I contemplate life's twists.

Monday, September 11, 2006

More Entertainment

Being of the non-television-owning persuasion, over the summer I indulged freely in tubeville while vacationing with family and friends in the U.S.

The "splurge", as it were, turned out to be more of a trickle but an addicted trickle it was. Exactly one show caught my undivided attention, prompting me to park on the edge of my mother's bed each Monday night at 8 p.m. sharp for a full two hours of undisturbed viewing. The show was Hell's Kitchen.

For those not in the know, the unscripted (Fox avoids the term "reality" on this one) series was a cook-off between wanna-be chefs vying to please acerbic, world class Scottish/British chef/restaurateur Gordon Ramsay. Originally of documentary fame for his Boiling Point films, Ramsay jumped the pond to the U.S. via Fox Television last year. In this particular series, one lucky culinary wiz was awarded a top tier restaurant on the Vegas Strip. (feechs. Vegas)

I LOVED Hell's Kitchen. I lived for the uncomfortable moments during which Ramsay butchered the on-trial cadets, I delighted over the in-fighting and pettiness, laughed aloud over mistakes even I caught - "You mean you've been basting the Beef Wellington with egg whites all night!! Is that what they taught you in culinary school? To baste with whites?? You f**cking wanker!!" (loosely quoted from one of Ramsay's crucifixions).

The intricacies regarding food preparation were fascinating and despite amazement over the candidates' restraint in replying only "Yes Chef!" to his cut downs, I actually found myself aligning with Ramsay irregardless of his.....well bastard demeanor, really.

My brother Josh, himself a chef, can't watch the show. He says Ramsay is too harsh. Watch this for a sample.

Heaven at the Movies

I am one of those people who believes in karma, synchronicity and striving to create gentler and kinder ways of existing and relating to others in the world. Very crunchy granola, Zen-Buddha-hippy stuff.

A good part of the time I don't achieve the kinder gentler part. Anyone who knows me will attest to that. Hell, ask my 4-year-old who bears witness each morning to my slew of choice descriptives for drivers as we bicycle merrily en route to his kindergarten.

The counter-balance is my attempt at creating the ideals. This is a good thing.

So when I sat back to watch Swedish director Kay Pollak's film Sa som i himmelen (As It Is in Heaven) yesterday, it felt a good deal like putting in some quality good karma time. Gorgeous. Thematically, very much about gracefully accepting life as it is and drawing from the core potential each of us has within. Scenes of Sweden's urban Norrland are pastoral.

I highly recommend pulling it off the video store shelf. Hej da for now

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Airport Shenanigans

This summer my 4-year-old son Rapha and I traveled to the U.S. to hang with Papa Itzik and Savta (Grandma, Hebrew) Ruti in Cincinnati. We also jetted out West to visit friends and family in San Francisco.

The night we left San Francisco, I stood at the departure counter ironing out a ticketing problem with a United Airlines agent while Rapha lolled atop our suitcase. Without warning, he suddenly announced he didn't feel so hot and proceeded to empty his stomach contents onto the carpet. Repeatedly.

Oddly enough, I was pretty calm. I rubbed his back while cooing soothingly, smoothed his hair from his forehead and offered water when a very kind soul in the incredibly long line handed me her bottle and a stack of tissues while another dear heart spread newspapers over the soiled carpet.

Freshly ticketed and ready to go, we went to the toilets to change clothing. Note to Parents: ALWAYS carry spare clothing. ALWAYS. Several sets. No sooner was Rapha dressed in fresh togs, than...yep, all over again on the bathroom floor and himself.

Note #2 to Parents: When, prior to departure, very well-intentioned friends and family members insist on getting junior a "last candy" "last ice-cream" or any other "last stomach filler crammed in with all that other garbage that makes a kid sick in public" politely decline. It WILL hurt him/her.

Final Note to Parents: Wanna clear security in record time? This is the kid who threw up in the bathroom and at the counter! Clear the way! yelled Joe Checker as he opened a secret passage for us alone.

Upstairs in the departure lounge armed with a plastic bag and Rapha napping beside me after his exhausting exertion, I phoned my brother Andrew. "Hey. Remember that mango gelato you got Rapha before we headed to the airport? Well I just wanted to let you know it is now all over the airport floor. Everywhere."

"Brah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.." Andrew's evil laughter erupted down the line in a manner only a brother can muster. Family support. It's a wonderful thing.

"Wait a minute, Andrew. Rapha? Do you feel sick again sweetie? Oh shit--"

I am sharing this because a friend shared this story with me today. No connection other than the airport factor. Enjoy anyway.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Extreme Telecommuting

Nothing like taking your work with you wherever you go. And in this day and age you can do just that regardless of location or personal situation.

Just ask the four members of El Salvadore's ultra-violent, Mara Salvatrucha street gang. They didn't let a little inconvenience like prison hold them back. No indeed.

By wrapping their work utensils - cellphones, a charger and extra chips - in plastic and inserting them far enough into their rectums to reach their intestines, they were able to carry on with business as usual from inside prison once their "tools" were retrieved. And what remarkable success they managed!... Ultimately masterminding robberies, blackmail and murders on the outside while in the slammer.

Read the full text here. Wow.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Silver Lining

Years ago while reading Buddhist theory, I came across a passage stating that the signs and symbols we need in life to know which paths to follow or to understand the direction our lives will ultimately take are before us each day. It is our job to become conscious in order to recognize and receive them.

Yesterday in the stairwell I met a neighbor who asked if we had found our cat; She disappeared during a July apartment robbery while we were abroad. I said no and joked that wherever she is, I hope she's happy, well-fed and living out her wild side.

Although I recently stopped going to the backyard to call her each day, I heeded an internal prodding spurred by the talk with our neighbor. I went to the yard and beckoned to an empty neighboring yard, generally a populated cat hangout. Nada. Well that's that, I concluded. No more. Turning to leave, a chill went up my spine. Across the way, peering intently from behind the bushes underneath our 3rd story window was Kalikee, our cat.

Kalikee! I called in surprise and she bolted, stopping a few yards away. Staring blankly. Giving no indication that she recognized me. Glued to her spot. Ready to spring if I moved too quickly. It looked like Kalikee but was this her? I continued to beckon. She stared blankly.

Slowly I backed towards the apartment entrance, maintaining eye contact while calling my 4-year-old son. They share a special bond. Perhaps he could coax her. Walk back here slowly; She's here I summoned. He came to the yard. Still no response from Kalikee. Call her. Gently. Say her name. And so he did. Repeatedly. Inviting her to come to him.

And finally she responded. She talked to him, meowing in response to his calls. And then she approached and rubbed up against him fiercely.

It took some effort to get her back upstairs. She was frightened, seems to have sustained an injury in her hind quarters and initially was wild. I was scratched and bitten. Rapha was happy but very cautious.

She has clearly been through something and is changed. So have we. We're all re-adjusting. Rapha's staying home from school to be with her today. He's thrilled to have his playmate back. I'm grateful.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fab, Fab, Fab

My pal Steve sent me this fabulous video. I'm having You Tube issues with this new Beta Blogger format but never mind. Bugs will be bugs. Check it out

Attie & Me

I'm not much of one to post images of myself. I prefer the privacy factor.

However, a friend recently sent me this one of myself w/Atticus, my Golden Retriever who I've been writing about here for the past few weeks. I like the picture and well hell...

Rapha started school on Sunday (a day not just for church anymore here in Holy Land Central, my friends). Thank goodness he's happier and doesn't have that dull, red under the eyelids "I've been through kindergarten hell" look on his face when I retrieve him each day. In fact, he has taken to humming as we bicycle en route home through the upscale neighborhood housing his school. It's in a part of Tel Aviv - Kikar Ha'Mdinah, for the in-the-know crowd - where if you wanted to buy a pair of Jimmy Choo's you could. When they say kids crave routine and thrive in familiar environments, "they" are right.

Onward & upward. Stories to write, deadlines pressing...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Slogging through the Slime

I'm having a helluva time being back in Holy Land Central (HLC) after my summer away. I'm angry, critical, down, disgusted and mostly living the negative persona these days.

I'm suffering a case of the re-adjustment blues. With a tinge of mourning thrown in over my lost dog and cat. With a good measure of revisiting feelings that sent me packing from HLC a decade ago towards a life in San Francisco. Feelings I need to explore.

In the meantime, I'm buoyed by an excellent bevvy of family and friends too numerous to name here. And Rapha. And generous strangers.
Rapha and I begin walking Simba - a 4-month-old lab/golden retriever mix we met at the park - this week to get in some quality dog time. It feels right.

These images are representative of what brings me joy these days. HLC's natural beauty. Colorful, wild bougainvillea, carob trees, date palms, olive groves.. A feast for the eyes. Enjoy...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hold the Presses

I'm drunk.

No. I'm dreaming...

Wait. I'm hallucinating.

Could this Reuters headline possibly be correct? Iran Offers Cooperation on Israel-Hizbollah Truce

I'm gobsmacked. Okay, what gives? What are they up to?