Stefanella's Drive Thru

Israel, U.S., conflict, war, peace, humor, travel, romance, fashion, fun

Kindness of Strangers December 29, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 5:49 am

I wasn’t really going to write about the latest, little health bump that cropped up because giving the impression of frailty and ill health is not attractive,now is it? But relaying this teensy anecdote necessitates divulging the continuing saga of “I Returned to the Mother Land to Fall to Pieces”.

The long and short of it: Went to the eye doctor to upgrade my glasses. Knew that I’ve needed it for some time – tiredness in one eye and feeling like it gets red and irritated after writing – but was putting it off for my return to “socialized medicine haven”…

Well it ain’t such a haven after all because after being taken off the medical treatment waitlist in November, I’ve been magically returned to non-gratis, treatment status meaning I don’t pass GO or collect $200.

And that’s a bummer because the eye doctor found glaucoma in the eye that had been bugging me. He also found, when he ran my medical card, that I’m not entitled to discounted treatment. And, of course, glaucoma ain’t cheap to treat what with retail prices running at $50 per wee vial of eye drops (I need two kinds), doctor’s visits at around $100 (saw him three times this week) and vision field tests at $100. With coverage, the visits, meds and tests would ALL run for probably $30-40 MAX.

So you know what my doc did? We’re pals now, by the way, Dr. Deutsch and I – he said he’ll see me free of charge until my socialized plan kicks back in around March because “as a doctor, I have to see you”…

And Doc D. isn’t exactly the second string: he’s a SPECIALIST with a cushy office in a swanky part of Tel Aviv with a forever packed waiting room. Of course, seeing me a la carte for a month or two versus now having a guaranteed patient for the next 4-5 decades – because this little eye nuisance won’t be disappearing – is a clever calculation. But that’s my cynicism rearing its head again.

I don’t ever remember having a swank/posh/specialist let alone a routine doc (my father doesn’t count) offer anything similar in the past…Pretty cool, huh?

And about the eye thing: It’s hereditary and creeps up silently so check to see if it runs in your family and if so, get your eyes tested. And, as my brother joked, try not to fall down the stairs and break a hip in the process.


Pub Treats December 27, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:39 am

Several days ago while walking Atticus the Wonder Dog on a brisk, pre-dawn Saturday, I noticed a sign on the window of one of our popular, neighborhood pub/cafe’s:

From Sunday to Sunday, starting at 9 p.m. each night, Hannuka Menorah lighting and donuts here at the Pub!

Being of paranoid persuasion, my first thought was: Where’s the catch? Do I have to buy something?

But then, reflecting on the type of place this pub/cafe’ is – neighborhood hang out, young and cool yet laid back crowd, warm and friendly, cozy, tea lights adorning each table – I decided there was no catch. The intent of pulling people together for the holiday was probably genuine.

So in order to check it out firsthand without feeling like the weirdo, neighborhood lady showing up for free entertainment with a limping dog, I used my small child as decoy. After all, an adult with 4-year-old in tow wanting to partake of Hannuka festivity and get a complimentary donut for his/her kid is oh so legit, no?

The ploy worked. The minute the attractive, dark haired bartender, and chic-esqua server with bleached out, clipped hair and midriff baring, hip hugger jeans saw Monsieur Raphael in his Spiderman costume, they gushed.

How would Spiderman like to light candles tonight? they asked. Pyromania runs in the family. Yes, please. Then, with a wee bit of prompting from mommy, my little angel batted his eyelashes and shamelessly asked: “Can I have a donut too?” Such finesse.

Because the idea of a 4-year-old sidled up to the beer tap for candelabra lighting doesn’t send people here shrieking over the invariability of a later-in-life alcoholic tendency, we were permitted to gather ’round Rapha on his bar stool, sing songs, light the lights and partake of confections.

There was no catch to the evening and no one even asked to see Rapha’s ID (everyone knows Spiderman costumes don’t have pockets). The 2nd night of Hannuka presented one of the simple but very nice perks of living here: Pop downstairs to the corner pub to enjoy the holiday with the neighbors..


HLC Christmas December 24, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 12:55 pm

So here we are in Tel Aviv, Holy Land Central (HLC) and it’s Christmas. Ya wouldn’t know it from the windows, homes and shops barren of the hype and hoopla so commonly connected with this time of year…But fear not! We here at Stefanella’s Drive Thru created a holiday all our own in our little enclave (nope, not a manger)

No, I haven’t been reading up on joining the Abbey and I haven’t embarked upon a Seven Sacrament Mission… As it happens, Tonny is not a member “of the tribe” so wouldn’t it be sad and unfair to ignore his holiday needs?

Yes indeed. So Christmas Eve (yesterday) at our house looked like this:

Steph slaving away over the stove all day to prepare traditional, Danish menu items (hint: Tonny hails from a Scandinavian country):

– Apricot/honey glazed Roasted Duck
– Boiled Potatoes with Bechamel Sauce
– Mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette
– Dessert of Rice Pudding topped with cherry sauce
– Red wine – the cheap stuff not from Vintner Steph’s Reserve Collection
– Sorry, no Acquavit schnapps

I jest – the preparation was surprisingly easy. But here’s a tip, my culinary pals: you think latkes are greasy? Try duck on for size. Once a year is quite sufficient for this INCREDIBLY fatty bird.

So our day was a lazy one what with the wind and pouring rain outside. We cranked up the heat, piped in Internet, radio Christmas tunes and connected the fairy lights left up since Rapha’s November birthday and VOILA! It was like being in Christian-dome if you looked at the room through squeezed eyelids and ignored the menorah on the shelf and the Hannuka decorations on the walls.

After eating our fill, we rested, anointed ourselves in bathtub ritual and then headed up to Jaffa where all the churches in these parts live, for a “Christmas Choral Event”…

Allow me to interject: The only point in 11+ years of living in HLC that I’ve come close to attending any type of religious ceremony was way back in ’95. Scene: Bethlehem Manger Square. Background: The first year of non-Israeli occupation in decades. Mission: I was a journalist covering a story that was pure bedlam and masses of jubilant participants. Recurring thought the entire evening: How in the heck will the taxi get me out of here with all these people in the streets? It didn’t count as quiet, observational time.

Last night did. Immanuel Church is small and extremely modest – About 140 Germans, Israelis, Ghanains, Scandinavians and other assorteds showed up despite the downpour to sing organ accompanied Silent Night, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and so on and partake of cake and coffee in the anteroom after the collection plate made its rounds. The pastor – Jan Mortensen, hailing from the same Scandinavian country as Tonny – was warm and looked kinda cute in his white, pastor’s housedress with hood.

I admit that I was taken aback by parishioners reading snippets of Old Testament in HEBREW at the dais, by New Testament, messianic scripture on the pulpit wall in HEBREW and mostly by Pastor Mortensen delivering his sermon in HEBREW (cryptic, difficult to follow and a tenuous thread relating to Jesus as the messiah).

What’s with all the Hebrew? Aren’t these Lutherans from Europe with bleach, blonde children running between the pews? How did Hebrew get into the mix? You’re associating the language with the religion, my father later commented when we discussed the issue. Perhaps. But it was most bizarre for me to hear Hebrew used while explaining Jesus as a savior…

But I had my fun. I would have to, no? I sang “Frankenstein” instead of “Frankincense” and did the off-key on purpose during hymnals…See, ma? I don’t just do that stuff to embarrass you in front of Mrs. Goldfarb and Rabbi Greenfield.

To my friends, family and everyone everywhere: Whatever you celebrate, Do it Up!

I’m going downstairs to get a donut for Hannuka!


Lights Festival December 23, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 11:18 am

Today I was pleased to realize part of the reason for moving back to Holy Land Central (HLC): Celebrating the holidays on my terms rather than forever being in the minority, smiling through gritted teeth as my child hums Christmas tunes and gushes over his preschool, Easter egg hunt. Yes, I’m all for diversity and learning about different cultures but we were definitely in danger of being “swallowed up” ‘oer yonder in America what with my non-synagogue-going tendencies and a lacking involvement in the Jewish community.

So what a joy it was this morning to join 30 other sets of parents at Raphael’s school in smashing our decidedly non-3-year-old toochases into minuscule, kiddie chairs to view an hour of song, dance and festivity featuring our little ‘uns.

Very impressive was the put-on by teacher Orli. She blocked out all the windows with black construction paper, decorated walls with neon paint, erected black lights and handed the kids day-glo, party sticks. When the lights went out, I nearly broke into a San Francisco, Warehouse-Rave-flashback-sweat. The visuals were awesome, dude.

However, some of it was simply Not How I Learned It. Back in the U.S. of A., we were taught the phrase: “A Great Miracle Happened There” referring to the miracle of Hannuka; it’s imprinted on the dreydls (spinning tops) we played with each season. Here in HLC, however, the saying goes: A Great Miracle Happened Here. Makes sense. After all, the Grecco-Syrians weren’t over in Miami conquering Sheldon Cohen’s condo.

But the first time I saw store display dreydls with the Hebrew stamps “here” rather than “there” I thought: Oh! Misprints! No wonder they’re so cheap. The store owner was kind enough to set me straight.

As I attempted to follow along with today’s program, I thought: Can Someone Teach Me the Tunes, please? The tykes were belting out songs about light, darkness, warriors and candleabras. I knew exactly 1.5 of the melodies despite a rather generous, Jewish upbringing. That’s because we clearly got the watered-down version back in America. Dreydl, dreydl, dreydl, I made it out of clay… Okay, cut! Hand over a fiver, Dad, or I’m going over to Timmy Jones’ house for spiked egg nogg and ham sandwiches

The finale ritual, however, more than made up for lacking, lyrics: jelly-filled, powdered donuts handed out to one and all. So sorry but the U.S. hallmark of this holiday – greasy, fried potato pancakes garnished with applesauce or sour cream – is such a turnoff! Do I really need the entire household, my clothing and hair to wreak of oil and onion? So the HLC way of celebrating – donuts filled with jelly, chocolate, dulce la leche or rum – is welcomed wholeheartedly, sisters and brothers.

I’m not going to lie: In a very tiny place I wouldn’t mind going to an office party, hearing some “Let It Snow” elevator Muzak or watching commercials bearing images of glowing hearths and blinking trees. I lived it too long to ignore the culture altogether. But MAN is it nice to have donuts and menorahs and parties and celebrations marking MY holiday for a change!

Good Cheer To All!


The Hand of the Law December 22, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 7:00 am

So now that my son’s friend Bumble-Age is rotting away in solitary confinement in imagi-jail-land, he has decided to turn his attentions towards my behavior.

Last night as I tapped away at the keyboard minding my own business, Raphael suddenly became enraged with (who knows?) what I was doing.

Eema (“Mom”) this is just enough. It’s time for you to go. I’m calling “them”

And off marches an indignant, 3-foot tall, herr dictatore to retrieve the telephone.

Police? Yes. Uhum. My Eema. (laugh, laugh) Oh really? Yeah. Okay.

What a nice repor my 4-year-old has developed with local law enforcement. I must remember to invite the squad for lunch sometime.

They’re coming to get you, Eema. That’s it.

What did I do? I ask sheepishly, already well aware of the answer.

I’d been sitting at the computer for an hour. At this point, his painting project had run dry, the terrorized kitten was hiding safely out of reach underneath the clothing cabinet, the super hero action figures had gone out back for a smoke break and I was breaching the pact: Boredom had crept in and I was NOT fulfilling my duty of doubling as Entertainment Center Extraodinaire.

Wanna sword fight? I suggested.

Magic. He called off the heat.

I was just kidding. The police aren’t coming he grinned.

Great. Nice kid. Let’s hope I never REALLY make him angry or Bumble-Age and I will be filing down spoons for weapons and bribing guards for prison blueprints


Imaginary Pals December 19, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 10:40 am

I’m in the kitchen preparing Steph’s Special Mac N’Cheese – “special” because it’s my attempt at upgrading a 4-year-old palate to the culinary delights of fettucine tossed with sauteed garlic, broccoli, cream and gorgonzola – when said child enters the kitchen and announces:

Bumble-Age (pronounced “ahhh-jjj”) is tied up under the sink. He’s not nice. He does mean things. Where’s the phone?

Not missing a beat but suspisciously eyeing the cabinet I tell him where to find the telephone and listen as he rings up “the police” from the living room. Finishing the conversation, he re-enters the gourmet room to inform:

The police are coming to get Bumble-Age.

And true to parallel universe form, the police arrive within a minute. Rapha opens the door, has a quick chat with the officers and thanks them before saying good-bye.

He’s gone. Whew! Good thing because Belle-Age (also pronounced with the long, French “ahhh” and soft “g”) is coming over to play and Bumble-Age is mean to her

The fact that my child has an imagination is fantastic. The fact that he gives his friends sophisticated, French sounding names is tres cool. The fact that there’s more than one explains why he’s in our bed every night – his must get crowded.

But the next bit sent me sailing to the computer to run Google, psycho-analytic searches:

You know, Belle-Age is really nice to me. She used to bring me bottles to my bed when I was a baby in San Francisco.

Like, Oh My God!!! How long have these two been around? Chills running down my spine, I’m thinking: Is this like the movies? Does Rapha see dead people?

I don’t want to go there, really, because I’ve read my fair share of Jung’s delvings into the supernatural and let’s just say there have been sleepless nights with the lights on.

But no worries. According to this is a healthy and normal thing for a kid his age and points towards a propensity for creativity.

So I’m not worried. I ask occasionally about his two friends and as far as I know, they haven’t been joined by a whole gaggle having parties or dipping into the liquor cabinet every night after lights out.

I especially don’t have to worry, I guess, because as of last night Bumble-Age is still in the clinker and Belle-Age met with the terrible fate of falling off the Golden Gate Bridge and being consumed by sharks. She couldn’t swim, Rapha reported with a shrug. Like the sharks would care.

To Be Continued….


About Drugs December 16, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 10:25 am

FINALLY after a month of lying around wasting away (now how’s THAT for drama queen, eh?) I’m feeling better from these pneumonia cooties. And I owe it all to the beauty of DRUGS… Lee Hsien Loong ain’t got a clue.

Okay, I don’t mean the illicit kind. Just straight up antibiotics. I’m not one to generally indulge in medication or drugs – don’t like medicine and the latter..I’ve experimented plenty, thanks. Sort of past it. But with this protracted lung thing going on? Bring it on. Increase the amount of pills to six per day? Sure. Get me a glass of juice to swallow my cocktail with, please.

So now it’s back to the world…s-l-o-w-l-y…Still get winded but at least I’ll be out there. It feels good!

Which reminds me: Drugs aren’t always ideal. Yesterday, walking down the street with Raphael, we both startle to see a man lying face down in the middle of traffic, vehicles merely maneuvering around him. After living in San Fran, I’m savvy to this stuff. He’s wasted and passed out. But THIS is new. Walking past passed-out homeless people on the sidewalk, mid-downtown, Financial District, constantly. But in the middle of traffic?

When I loudly gasped: “Oh my God!” someone explained “He fell over”…Thanks for the rocket science. That I can see. But is anyone going to help him?

A brave soul stopped his car, got out and propped Mr. Wasted on his feet on the curb (for a few seconds until he dropped down to the sidewalk). Brave if only because street dwellers are generally covered in vomit, feces, disease, body lice and filth. And I admit: I could have helped this man just like I could have helped any number of struggling homeless people throughout the years. But I am lacking in this department. I can’t get over my personal aversion to the smell of a urine soaked human being. I helped someone once but throughout the years have obviously become hardened. I dislike myself for it and I can’t help it.

Much has changed in Israel, and within myself, indeed. This is despair of a different sort.