Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ode to a City

Who’d have guessed it? I’ve fallen in love, and it feels so good! The sights, the sounds, the people (well, obviously not all the people, and certainly not in an individual, sexual sort of way! Get your minds out of the gutter, people!)! That’s right, I’ve fallen in love with Tel Aviv! I know what you’re saying. You think it’s too soon. I’ve been on the new job for less than a week. You’re thinking that I’m still in the honeymoon period, that chinks in the armor will start to show soon enough. Okay, I’ll grant you that it’s certainly a possibility, but only as something in the vague, distant future. Not something that’s going to happen today, tomorrow, next week, etc. For now, this is it. The real deal. The tingly feeling (or is that a Fimbley Feeling? Too many hours spent viewing the kiddie shows on BBC Prime, no doubt…) I get when crossing the bridge from the train station, the adrenaline rush as I power walk through the streets towards my office (which may very well be connected to the caffeine buzz I pick up while inhaling the large, low-fat cappuccino I grab each morning at Ilan’s Café). Oh, and did I mention the magnificent vistas from the 7th floor patio of our office, with sweeping views of Tel Aviv? I know it sounds so cliché, but on a clear day, I can even see the sea! Oooh! It’s just so lovely!

Of course, with all due respect to those of you who actually live in the city, I’m not sure that I could live there, as attractive as it seems at times. I like my quiet and I like my space, both of which are at a premium in Tel Aviv. Still, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time there of late, and find that I’m sometimes envious of those who don’t have to tramp back to the suburbs at night, those who can step out of their homes directly into the hustle and bustle, with restaurants and shops at every turn. I mean, shit! How exciting must that be?! Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live. However, you can’t really walk anywhere, and the public transport is less than stellar. And despite the fact that we’ve got a number of shops open on Saturdays, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I sometimes wish for something more. I mean, not that I’m expecting a food festival or love parade, all I’m saying is that it might be nice if things were a bit livelier.

And Tel Aviv is definitely a happening place. Why, in my own little adopted corner of it, there are a veritable plethora of restaurants to suit all sorts of tastes, at least one excellent coffee place (as mentioned above), an assortment of shops and bakeries, and, for those of you who might be interested (though there’s certainly no need whatsoever to bring your interest to my attention), there’s even a selection of strip clubs. A most diverse area indeed. I haven’t had much of a chance to explore (and there are a few establishments that will most likely not make it to the list), but I do know that the British Council has an office around the corner, with a quaint little café that provides a range of current British newspapers, English news on the telly, a small library and a bank of computers connected to the Internet. Even the name of the café was quaintly British, though it escapes me now.

Just being in this exciting city makes me feel good, like I’ve suddenly been presented with a gift of endless possibilities, all mine for the taking. I can make plans with my Tel Aviv-based friends to meet up for lunch or a drink, or attend a stimulating lecture. I can go to the theatre or a concert, or catch a movie at any one of the many cinemas that the city has to offer. I can sit in a café for hours on end, nursing lattes and writing, while the world of Tel Aviv passes by. Aaaah, bliss.

I’m not quite sure how to end this, but it seems that the decision has been taken out of my hands, as the train will shortly be pulling into my stop, and given that it’s Sunday and the path to the door is an obstacle course of people, bags and weapons (many soldiers with rifles casually slung over their shoulders), it’s best that I start now, otherwise, I’ll never make it off the train, and will miss my morning coffee (shudder).

Monday, October 24, 2005

Where's Pa? Where's Gamma?

Whew! Parents successfully dropped at the airport (though admittedly, I have yet to hear whether they’ve arrived back home safe and sound, so I suppose it’s possible that they’re still at the airport, though I imagine they’d have called had this been the case). Two hectic weeks of running to and fro, here and there, and essentially, everywhere. I felt like a tourist in my own (albeit adopted) country, given all the sightseeing we did. Just to give you a brief rundown – the Safari in Ramat Gan, Mini-Israel, the Golan Heights and around the Sea of Galilee, parts of Tel Aviv, Caesarea, and Zichron Yakov. We visited beaches, parks, galleries, and festivals, and went to more restaurants than Husband and I manage to get to in a year. Speaking of restaurants, should you find yourself hungry while driving through the Jordan Valley towards Tiberius, I highly recommend stopping for a bite at “Tzel Hatamar”, a fabulous restaurant just North of the Peace Island of Naharaim, and across the road from Moshav Menahemiya. Food and service were both excellent (we highly recommend the salmon and the spring chicken), prices were reasonable, and the setting was lovely.

During the course of our travels, we managed to get together with family friends, do some shopping, and appear on television. Okay, if truth be told, it was only for a second, and it was only Husband and the Little One, but it was still pretty cool! We went to the Arts Festival at the Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv (following a terrific little meal at the Comme il Faut café at the Tel Aviv port), and while practicing to name the different facial features on a very colorful statue, a Channel 2 camera man filmed the two of them for a few seconds. Didn’t know at the time that it was Channel 2, but coincidentally managed to catch the story about the festival on the news that evening, and there they were! Husband’s sister called us straight away to say she’d seen it, but otherwise, it seems that viewership is down, as nobody else we know had seen it. If truth be known, we prefer the news on Channel 10, and just got lucky while flipping channels during the commercials.

And, as if all of this activity wasn’t enough, whenever we were home, especially during the last few days, parents were glued to either the television or the Internet, tracking Hurricane Wilma, and wondering if they should arrange for the windows of their home in Southwest Florida to be boarded up, while at the same time corresponding with my brother in Southeast Florida about the pros and cons of putting up permanent hurricane shutters. After several days of uncertainty regarding Wilma’s plans for South Florida, it seemed that while my parents’ home would miss the brunt of the storm, my brother’s home could take a more direct hit. I suppose that only time will tell, and we will be wiser (and perhaps somewhat battered) 24 hours from now.
So, as I look back over the visit, I think I’d have to say that aside for a few bumps, it was mostly successful. The Little One realizes (as much as a 17 month old can realize) that something is different around the house, and that his grandparents aren't around anymore. I ask him where they are, and he goes into the guest room looking, while raising his hands in his typical "I don't know" gesture and saying, "where's Pa?". This morning, he pointed at their pillows on the bed and made a shushing gesture, as if we didn't see them because they were still asleep. Very cute! The house is definitely quieter now, and aside from some new toys and clothes, you'd never know they were even here visiting.

Anyway, now that I've more or less returned to real life (and whatever that may entail), I imagine that my posts will reflect the change accordingly, and I shall return to my usual maddening, obnoxiously witty (with just a trifle of modesty!) self.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tis the season to be jolly

And they just keep on coming...

Holidays galore round here, though I can see the light at the end of the tunnel - just one more little festive round to go. Bit strange though, right? On the one hand we're all smiling because we know that nasty ol' working week is a little shorter for each week in October. On the other hand, we know that the holidays bring about an unhealthy amount of quality time with your nearest and dearest (including Uncle whats-his-face and Auntie whats-her-name-again plus their cherub-is-heading-for-a-slap-if-he-doesn't-stop-kicking-me).

So I have a confession...yesterday saw me pull a sickie and politely decline the opportunity to spend time yet again with the in-laws. My cough got miraculously better the moment my wife left, but, strangely enough, it reemerged the moment I heard her key in the door...strange that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Busy Busy Busy!

Yes, we've been quiet. We know. But, we've got very good excuses. All of our parents are in town! He and I haven't even had a chance to touch base, we've just been so busy running around with our ancestors and watching them turn all mushy in the presence of our children that we haven't had a moment to write! With the little one safely in day care, Mom lingering over breakfast and Dad sitting on the porch reading the newspaper, I thought I'd take a few moments to let you know how it's going.

Arrival two days ago went fairly smoothly, though there were moments of anxiety when my parents thought they'd lost all of their luggage. In the end, it turned out that someone had taken everything off the carousel and left it stacked together off to the side somewhere. A happy ending, but certainly something they could have done without, following the flight from hell. The little one recognized them straight away, thanks to our constant drilling with photos, and even managed to point to my dad and say his name (though to be completely honest, he first pointed at Mom and called her by Dad's name). Upon arriving at home, suitcases were emptied of toys, videos, books and clothes for the little one. Given the sheer quantity of items for the grandson, it's amazing that there was even room for any of their stuff! They might even be able to return home with a lunchbox-sized carry on! I'm kidding, of course, but there will be at least one or two less bags on return.

Yesterday we went to the Safari - a wonderful zoo in the Tel Aviv area, and had it pretty much to ourselves. The little one slept the whole way in the car, and started to wake up as we pulled into the grounds. One mention of the word "animals", and his eyes popped wide open in amazement, as he saw all the birds coming up to the car, the zebras, the hippos in the pond. I love the zoo, but to see it through the eyes of my son is truly something special. He ran all over the place, looking at the monkeys, and completely taken with the birds. "Bye bye, tuh-tle" had us rolling in hysterics, as did his roaring at the "cat" (which was actually a fierce looking black puma). He was intrigued by the sheep, especially as they ate the pellets straight out of Mommy's hand, and enjoyed watching Mommy in the petting zoo. When he started to cry on a bench by the deer area, one of the female deer stood quietly by the fence watching him, only going away once we managed to get him to stop crying. She was obviously concerned for the crying baby, and we were in awe of her apparent concern. The look on his face when one of the birds said "hello" was priceless! I knew that Mom had reached her zoo limits when we walked through the bird area. The birds started making all sorts of birdie noises, and all Mom could say was, "ah, shut up". Given that she's not prone to taking out her aggressions on our feathered friends, I realized that it was time to head for home.

The long ride back was broken up by stops at two supermarkets - first to Tiv Taam, as we were in desperate need of seafood (Dad's been after me to make him crab cakes for some time now), and then to our regular supermarket, to stock up on a veritable plethora of other items. By 9pm, parents, husband, the little one, and the dog were all fast asleep, completely exhausted from our day at the zoo. Today and tomorrow we'll be on forced rest, due to Yom Kippur, but come Friday, we'll be off again to parts unknown. The longer I live here, the harder it is to come up with good destinations, as the parents have been nearly everywhere at this point. We've got a tentative schedule for the duration of their trip, but if anyone has any suggestions for outings, especially child-friendly outings, I am definitely all ears! Mini-Israel is already on the schedule, as well as vaguely defined plans to head "up North", but we are seriously running out of places!

Anyway, must go drink more coffee. Had only one cup of regular coffee yesterday, as opposed to usual three cups of latte, and paid for it dearly with a dreadful headache! For those of you fasting on Yom Kippur, I wish you an easy fast, with a reminder to watch out for the mad cyclists who take over the roads every year. I'm sure the little one will be running about madly and riding his tricycle as well, but given that his feet don't quite reach the pedals yet and he's only just discovered the magic of being able to steer as of this morning, I'd be willing to bet that one would have nothing to fear if they found themselves in his path. Bye-bye, tuh-tle.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Tribal gatherings

I haven't posted for a while, so thought I'd grab you with some seasonal banter...

Oh yeh. The holiday season is upon us.

That means lots of family gatherings to enjoy and savour. I don't know about you, but my wife's family is a bit on the enormous side, so these 'little' gatherings take on proportions that always manage to give me the willies. Uncle whats-his-face and Auntie whats-her-name-again arrive with pesky little junior-is-heading-for-a-slap-if-he-doesn't-stop-kicking-me and conquer my in-laws' garden for the annual Jewish New Year do. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just one set of Uncles and Aunties, or just once a year, but unfortunately it's a whole tribe's worth and we're set to cross each other's paths over and over again this coming month.

I always used to think it was me, that I was the sad bastard who was anti-family or perhaps a bit unsociable. Then I met other Anglos married to clans and realised I wasn't alone. It's them, right? The Israeli side of the family. An unhealthy appetite for grouping together for as long as possible under one roof. It just ain't normal. Me, I'm used to short and sweet family get-togethers, where the taxi is invited in advance (because we're a family of festive drinkers and nobody wants to drive) at a specified hour, so there is a guaranteed cut-off point. That does it for me, no overkill, no unwelcome overstayers and no extended hours of listening to Uncle whats-his-face's jokes, the ones he told us last year.

Anyway, one majorly good thing about all this holidaying is that the holidays have fallen very nicely throughout October. Next week, it's the Jewish New Year, the week after Yom Kippur, and then the two weeks after that we have the Succot double-ender. It doesn't always work out this way, of course, thanks to the Jewish calendar, so us employees are counting our blessings and rubbing our hands in glee at the short working weeks ahead of us.

From the both of us (He and She) at Something Something, we wish you all a healthy, sweet, prosperous, and most importantly, happy New Year! And if you're sharing your holiday with an extended tribe, have a drink (or 3) on us!