Stefanella's Drive Thru

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

BRAVO!! January 31, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 12:56 pm

A few notes as we head into February, hurrah hurrah:

Yet another meeting with someone via the blog-zone…The first was with this person visiting Tel Aviv with her family. They generally live way over in the frozen hemisphere, more commonly referred to as Canada. I wrote about our get-together earlier in the month.

Today, the meeting was with a fellow Yank, New York ex-pat living half in/half out of HLC (Holy Land Central). We coffee’d, exchanged HLC lamentations and got halfway through life story spiels before having to run off to attend to our respective “other stuffs”. We shall meet again. Very nice lady with moxy and heart. I’m privileged, you know. I get to meet people from my country of origin in coffeehouses halfway around the world from the jumping off point. What a cool, cut-to-the-chase medium this blog world is.

In other news, I extend a heartfelt thanks to Tel Aviv’s municipality and HLC’s banks for making online school sign up and account access painless and bug free. Would you guys mind picking up the phone to the cable, electric, water/city tax, gas, phone, long distance, cellphone and internet access providers to clue them in about online bill pay? Hello!!! We are not rubbing sticks together anymore.

And my final soapbox derby of the day: Have you seen the latest, Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yet? Ya gotta. Once again, I stand in awe and admiration of Tim Burton’s talents. Ma, shield your eyes and click “page down” for this next part: I understand that it’s all the rage among stoners, thanks to awesome visuals. I don’t personally partake but I did try it once. Of course, I never inhaled.


A Pensioner’s Life, Tel Aviv January 30, 2006

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Same Old Same Old January 29, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 7:27 am

The cover story of Tel Aviv’s weekly Ha’Ir (the City) this past Friday addressed homelessness. What familiar turf, coming from San Francisco where hundreds of millions of $$’s are spent annually in an effort to stanch the floodgate. SF’s load is tremendous what with a teeming, 5000+ street-bound population (compared with Tel Aviv’s 787 last year). Incidentally, this series about SF’s problem is one of the best I’ve read.

But back to HLC (Holy Land Central).

On a personal level, I couldn’t help but notice the change since I last lived here. Particularly when recalling the ONE, homeless guy living in the park near Tel Aviv U. who we overseas students so proudly supplied with fashion magazines. Like he was really going to apply perfume to his cleavage and at pulse points in an effort to follow CosmoGirl’s hints for enhancing sexual allure.

Striking how the homeless problem bears universal qualities: mental illness, drug addiction, shelters, jails and the general consensus shared by outdoor dwellers of the shelter being a more loathed venue than the street.

Tel Aviv is no exception. According to the article’s stats, 70% of the city’s homeless are addicts, 25% are mentally ill and the other 5% are victims of unforeseen circumstances like job loss, over-extended spending, accidents leading to bankruptcy…

What surprises me is the candor with which some of the interviewees admitted to feeling claustrophobic indoors i.e. preferring a life on the streets where they needn’t abide by society’s dictates. I thought about that one: What a price to pay for freedom. Freedom or hell. Depends upon your view.

Whatever that view, for the most part homeless people here aren’t strolling the streets barefoot or wearing cardboard shoes exposing severely, gangrene-infested feet. They aren’t lying in pools of urine in Tel Aviv’s bursa (financial district), defecating between parked cars in broad daylight or shooting up on door stoops. Talking to imaginary friends, screaming at invisible foes and physically lashing out at the non-imaginaries barely occurs. So far.

What’s the solution? If only….


Hamas & the Elections January 27, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 8:33 am

Well, there went the neighborhood, hmmm?

Speaking strictly as an armchair analyst, my guess is that either complete bedlam will erupt as factions vying for power begin in-fighting or Hamas will eventually go mainstream – and by “eventually”, I’m talking YEARS. Look at PLO history.

If they don’t adapt moderation, the kids on the other side of the pond – Condie and company – won’t let them play in the sandbox with the rest of the bullies who faithfully adhere to their ADHD med regimens.

Either way you slice it, the popular message behind the vote is worth thinking about.

Stay tuned. Never a dull moment here in HLC.


Clarification in Order January 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 4:57 pm

I need to set the record straight because I fear my lamentings are giving the wrong impression. The pal who I blogged about yesterday expressed concern over the continued doom and gloom I broadcast in my postings…

That started me thinking about people who might be reading those posts – the same ones planning to move here in the summer or in a few years (you know who you are, girls) – and I felt compelled to send out a message:


Okay. Just foolin’.

The inner questioning? Let’s put it this way: My dad claims my mid-life crisis started at thirteen.

So, I’ll always moan no matter where I am. It really boils down to crappy, insecure or…just plain crappy days. Nothing too scientific about it. As I expressed previously, those days will find us ALL no matter where we take ourselves.

So to the people coming over, come on over. Yes, there will be adjustment to go through, some culture shock, longings for things left behind. That’s all natural. But remember that “breathe into it” stuff? I’m telling you, it works.

I know because yesterday, while torturing myself by getting onto Craigslist San Francisco & browsing pictures of apartments with hardwood floors, beveled glass windows, built-in fireplaces and walk-in pantries I started feeling a twisting agony in the mid-section. I nearly navigated away from the page then stopped and asked myself: “What is it you’re really longing for? The space? The ornate-ness of things? Is it really that bad in the comfy, Tel Aviv 10-minute-walk-from-the-beach flat you have with an entire wall of glass windows overlooking orange trees? And let’s face it: They were building PROJECTS next to your building in SF. Gun fire, 24/7 drug traffic and drive-bys are no fun at all, are they Stefie Stef?”

And guess what? The twist went away and I realized that relative to how it could be, my landing has been cushy-cush. So I’ll get on with it now. Thanks for listening.


The Kindness of (non) Strangers January 25, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 3:28 pm

Yesterday, a journalist-type friend concerned that my current HLC (Holy Land Central) fall from grace might push me to pull on the wetsuit and flippers and start swimming west (I can’t; the wetsuit’s pre-pregnancy, custom fit), offered to take myself and Rapha “away from it all” for the afternoon. Collecting us in her American-size, 8-seater SUV, we were in Raanana in ten minutes flat thanks to the connecting uber-highway from Tel Aviv.

Once out in the country, I took in the surroundings: wide, open spaces, cottage style homes, greenery and a living room you could toss frisbee in. She doesn’t really live in the country; with a population of 70,000 mid to upper class, mostly Anglo-Saxons, Raanana hardly qualifies as Green Acres. It doesn’t fit into yuppy-ville either. It’s a nice place to raise kids with a good school system and an extremely vocal community of movers and shakers. There.

Hanging for the day was cool- I perused A.’s overflowing bookshelves, met her bi-lingual kids and basically relaxed in a house setting for the day, escaping worries of deadlines, bills and bi-culturism.

Sweet, it was of her, to attempt rousing me with tidbits of Americana during my time of internal questioning. And in fact, blah-blahing and just hangin’ with a sistah was fab. Towards the evening, we even got daring and left the kiddies with a sitter to traipse off to “Meatland”, a specialty shop for getting your grub on if you’ve been chalishing Trader Joe’s Barbara’s cereals, Ken’s Steakhouse BBQ sauce, Tofu frozen dessert, Marshmallow Fluff (oh my god, why?) or other assorted sundries from the U.S., England or South Africa.

Were it that the internal rumblings could be quieted by Reese’s peanut butter cups alone. Unfortunately, regardless of domicile, the ill ease will persist. But here, again, is yet another example of human kindess. Can we come back and shoot hoops soon?


War January 24, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 5:09 am

I continue referring to Madeleine Albright’s memoirs ’cause I’m way into the book right now. Yes, I know it’s been out for several years so big deal but until recently, it’s been a shelf-stuffer, occupying bookcase space and serving as an illusory indicator of “well read person living in this home”.

It’s not just any old copy, mind you: When Tonny (my husband/partner-type person) heard me talking about plans to attend Albright’s San Fran book signing years ago, he rushed out and got me a copy which now bears Ms. Madam’s inscription to Stefie Stef. Tonny’s a good guy, eh?

But I didn’t come here to boast.

I’m still at the book’s start. Madeleine – we’re on first name terms since the book event – is writing about her term as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., recounting the wars in Somalia and Rwanda. She prefaces by apologizing for Rwanda, saying that she was among the majority who didn’t realize that the Hutu-Tutsi fighting was masking a wave of genocide of sickening proportions.

I read in amazement and horror, recalling a colleague’s descriptions of being sent to cover the mess for Reuters, and being greeted by a putrid wave of warm air carrying the scent of decaying bodies as he de-planed on the tarmac in Rwanda. Despite seeing active duty in Israel’s military and weaving in and out of the territories as a journalist, he had never witnessed anything of that proportion in his life. He came back affected. Surprise surprise.

I read this stuff and contemplate other genocides – the Holocaust, Bosnia, Sudan – and wonder: How do these guys keep the momentum going? In other words, how does a band of machete wielding rebels go into a hospital, slaughter the staff and then come back the next day to finish off the patients? What do they tell themselves in order to keep the hatred burning and the dogma alive day after day, enabling them to kill off millions of women and children? Psychologically, does the “war state of mind” turn Nazis, Hutus and Janjaweed into some sort of sci-fi, killing zombies?

Apparently so. Years ago I read Chris Hedges’ War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning in which he discusses the lethal, addictive attributes of war. A NY Times and former Christian Science Monitor reporter, Hedges was in and out of nearly every, major war zone during the 80’s & 90’s, including spending time in HLC (Holy Land Central). He also goes into the addiction journalists covering conflict encounter. I suggest giving his book a read. It’s a frightening, eye opener.

Over and Out for Now.


Getting Over the Humps January 21, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:51 pm

We attended our first HLC (Holy Land Central) kiddy birthday party yesterday: 30+ little ones from Raphael’s kindergarten and a dozen assorted parents packed into an extremely modest-sized, Tel Aviv apartment noshing on bourekas, cut up veggies, hard boiled eggs and pita bread with hummus/chocolate spread.

Entertainment was an aging puppeteer doubling as magician who, I swear, is the flesh and blood embodiment of Krusty the Clown without the floppy shoes and white gloves. I nearly followed the guy outside after the performance to see if he’d take a swig from a breast pocket flask while lighting up. His dusty puppet & magic shows were in dire need of updating as was his music collection – I Need a Hero & The Macarena? Dude! They went out with bad toupes and oversized, Liz Taylor sunglasses.

But the kids seemed to have a good time dancing train-style as did the grandmothers, instructed to put hands over their tzitzeem while leading the Macarena.

I, however, in keeping with this week’s theme of feeling out of sorts in HLC, experienced a renewed surge of yuck.

I can’t really put my finger on what exactly had me squirming. Perhaps the lack of luster I’m accustomed to back in the U.S. of A. Call me spoiled. I got used to the standard cavernous, rented spaces with outdoor and indoor areas for running and playing, a catered spread fine tuned to both discerning adult palates and more simple, mini-pizza/pasta salad/mini-hot dog kid preferences, razzle-dazzle clown acts with balloons twisted into custom-shaped Jaguars for boys and Spanish speaking Bratz Dolls for girls, rented jumping castles for more energy expenditure and specialty cakes baked by gourmet patisseries running well over $100 for a double layer, sheet serving 20-25. And all of the above elements, I swear, were packed into a single, 2-year-old’s party back in San Fran. Imagine how the stakes raise each year.

NOW, I’m not saying that the glitz and glamour is BETTER than yesterday’s modest gathering. And in fact, the hype backed by shallow substance was one of the U.S.-isms I held in disdain.

But…Well…I simply need to get used to the way it’s done over here. Because the kids doing the chicken dance looked just as happy as the ones eating gourmet cake. It’s my mind that races and panics and starts to play Better and Worse games. I will continue breathing into it.

Over and out for now.


Breathing Into It January 20, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 7:01 pm

IN the late 90’s, I spent a year learning about Anger & Conflict in Relationships & Love, Passion and Obsession in a course offered at San Francisco State University. Half the year delved into the anger aspect – individual, collective, societal, global, etc. – while the other half year was spent learning about the various types of love and relationships we get ourselves into and how to wade through them, surface to the top and make sense of it all in the process.

We sailed through mucho information that year and I took an entire binder-full of notes which I occasionally refer to when a bit of memory refreshing is in order.

I thought about the course today because I have hit the fork in the road Genevieve, our instructor, lectured about at length. It’s the point in life, in a relationship, in a job and so on where you are sitting at the corner of “unknown” and “follow my routine path” and it’s up to you to choose your destination.

In yoga, it’s referred to as either pulling back from a particularly uncomfortable pose or breathing into it until the pain changes.

I’m looking at this HLC (Holy Land Central) place and thinking: Am I really back here again? What did I do that for?

I’m certainly not going to pull back from the pose (the usual routine) because where in the heck would I go where uncomfortability, which really boils down to the uncomfortable parts within myself, won’t eventually find me?

So I have to breathe into it (unknown) and see where it takes me which sort of sucks because it’s not a great feeling. Sometimes I kid myself into believing in a foolproof place where there is no such thing as uncomfortability. Too much exposure to Hollywood, I guess. (*heavy sigh*). Where is Fantasy Island or Love Boat when you need it, huh?

Ech, I never liked either of those shows anyway.


Woman With Hat

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:50 pm
Rabin Square, Tel Aviv