Stefanella's Drive Thru

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

My Summer Vacation or Thoughts on Getting Away August 23, 2008

Each year my son and I spend summers in the U.S. with my parents.  It affords me quality time with my folks and siblings and I get to do relaxeyish, holiday kinds of things like eating someone else’s home cooked meals, cruising malls, vegging in front of the tellie, hitting the cinema and lounging poolside.  My son – a soon-to-be 1st grader – spends time bonding with his grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles and keeps updated on U.S. culture via summer camp, cartoons, toys and outings.  It’s a win-win family benefit thing.

I’ve concluded, however, that there are additional built-in benefits to spending extended periods away from my current home in Holy Land Central (HLC). . These include:

Central Air: Everywhere, All the Time.  This comes from a non-environmentally conscious place driven by the hedonistic zone of “Ahhh.  There can never be too much comfort”.   Yes, there’s a/c in Israel.  But Middle East heat tolerance is high so most private homes or businesses don’t keep the air-con running non-stop 24:7.  In the U.S., thankfully, businesses have come away from Arctic Circle summertime temps;  Funny how a wee recession will influence thermostat adjustments.  I needed my indoor sweater only twice this summer.  Yippee.  I love the comfort of not-too-cold a/c.

Look Who’s Sporting Head Lice? It doesn’t matter that people say: “Kids in U.S. schools get head lice too”.  I don’t feel better.  I was a kid once who grew up in a U.S. school and I NEVER had lice.  EVER.  In the HLC school system, on the other hand?  Fuggedaboudit.  What a relief when counselors at my son’s U.S. camp handed out leaflets notifying parents of a lice outbreak.  Yes, I was paranoid for a minute and no, we hadn’t brought little gifties from afar.  MY SON was clean.

Have Travel – Boost Confidence. Back in HLC, I gaze longingly through the showcase window of Tel Aviv’s Prada boutique but never set foot inside.  I sort of figure the sales staff can sniff out who has it in his or her trusty wallet to cough up a cool $5000 for a Spring frock versus the wannabe carrying a Chanel knock-off she bargained for in Bangkok’s night market.

While on holiday, however…  Why not breeze into BCBGMaxAzria and try on this number, this one and this without giving the matter a second thought?  Yes, I did, thanks much.  Oh Cabana Boy!!!  Dry Grey Goose martini, chilled glass, 2 olives please!  Hell, make one for yourself while you’re at it!

Sanitation.  It’s just a different standard.  That’s all.  Like rubber gloves optional for emergency room nurses.  Or 95 degree midday heat (35 celsius) in the crowded open air market with sweaty people rubbing up against you creating the desired yet suppressed knee jerk scream: “DON’T TOUCH ME!!!  OH MY GOD YOUR SWEAT JUST GOT ON ME!!!  AHHHHH!!!”

Versus a new item in Cincinnati supermarkets this summer:  Lysol disinfectant wipes for cleaning the push handle shopping cart bar before embarking upon buying adventures.  No germ swapping there.  Disinfect to Protect. . Catchy, no?

Fly the No-Fun Skies.  It’s downright scary when the El Al leg of travel is more pleasant than United‘s.  U.S. air travel has taken on an uber-serious, quasi-nasty, downright no fun quality that makes flying the North American skies pretty un-friendly.  Over-taxed and disgruntled over constantly shifting regulation and tariff rules, U.S. airline counter people are grim.  In comparison, shock of shocks, Israeli security, ticketing and in-air staff come off as polite.

A Matter of Perception. Returning to HLC after a few months away carries with it the requisite re-entry eye openers.  Like arriving at the local swimming pool to find the entire swim team, pool staff, coaches and lifeguard crew sprawled on the front lawn.

What?  Is there a bomb scare inside? I casually ask the security guard, simultaneously becoming aware of the fact that the question came from the ingrained, casual question zone of my lexicon. Unusual traffic congestion, a sealed off street or the current swimming pool scene prompt automatic bomb scare thoughts.

Naw, the guard shrugs.  It’s religious night at the pool.

There it goes again.  I know what he’s talking about.  Religious night means women only for two hours followed by two hours of all male swimming.  It’s a modesty thing.

Whoa.  Conditioning.

It’s great getting away and always good coming back but the getaway value is priceless for stirring awareness and thought.

(How was that for P.C., huh? )


The Obesity Factor August 5, 2008

While commuting my 6-year-old to summer camp this morning, an NPR story about a man facing execution for a rape and murder conviction came over the radio.

The man’s attorney is appealing the execution on the grounds of obesity; he claims his client is so obese – 270 pounds – that finding a vein for lethal injection would present unusually cruel circumstances.  It would take too long to get through the fat to find a vein and therefore his client shouldn’t be subjected to such added mental anguish prior to death.

The story referred to a similar situation last year wherein an obese death sentenced convicted criminal waited an unusually long 18 minutes as prison officials searched for a vein, administered a lethal injection and the dose took effect.

My personal stance on Capital Punishment doesn’t support the “eye for an eye” creed a death sentence carries with it.  I’m an advocate of plugging funds into reform programs.  But that’s not what this blog entry is about.

I’m in Ohio for the summer from Holy Land Central – aka Israel or The Promised Land – visiting my parents.  And because I live over there now, when I come here for a visit the degree of overweight and consumption is quite apparent.  Israel, mind you, is certainly not the poster child country for gaunt; but we have yet to reach the levels of overweight seen in the U.S.  Yet. I only hope food matters don’t get out of control in Israel as they have in the States.

Last weekend, after attending a killer tennis match between world class players Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, my tennis-viewing partners and I set out in search of a dinner venue.  Unfamiliar with the local restaurant scene, I deferred to the U.S.-dwellers who chose a low-mid-range restaurant specializing in burgers.

Very little appealed to me menu-wise so I opted for a Cesar Salad with blackened chicken.  Several things about the dinner struck me which is why I bring it up here:

When my ginormous soda was half-full, our server brought another ginormous soda to the table and set it down beside the 1st.  Unprompted.  Back in HLC, that just wouldn’t happen.  1st of all, the soda would’ve been a third of the size.  Second, no freebies.  You want a refill?  You have to chase the server down for it and you’re definitely gonna pay.  Here, free & constant refills are de rigeur.

I also was dumbstruck by the restaurant’s “endless fries” policy.  Finished that first hefty serving that comes with your burger?  We’ll bring you more.  And more.  And more.  It’s endless. Sit here all night if you want. Bon appetit.

I cannot be the only one who sees this policy as flat out, no-questions-asked Wrong.

And when I ordered to-go Mac & Cheese for my at-home son, the server winked and offered:  I’ll put two orders in the bag; our Mac & Cheese is endless too and one serving really is too small.

Our server was not a petite girl nor were any of her colleagues.  I realized her way of showing the love was by offering extra helpings, quick refills and more of more. She’s not to be faulted for that.

But the “large, extra and more” seemingly beneficial dining policies are killing people here.  And yes, it’s an overbaked subject that’s been brought to the attention of policymakers and the general public.  But seeing it in living color is at times astounding.

And I also know that the type menu and dietary habits suggested above tend to apply to specific social hierarchies.  But not always.  Obesity cuts across fiscal stratum.

The lawyer trying to delay death using an obesity claim is a clever last ditch effort.  He’s doing his job.  But the platform of his argument is a surefire indicator of matters looming larger here in the U.S.

Pun intended.