Stefanella's Drive Thru

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

Ain’t My City October 28, 2008

Kudos to pal Lisa who posted a link to this video on Facebook. After viewing, I too felt compelled to post it.

For the non-Hebrew speakers out there, municipal elections are creeping up in Holy Land Central (HLC).  In recent years Tel Aviv has morphed into an overpriced urbana with sky high rents, sky high apartment complexes, soaring real estate values and SUV’s parked on sidwalks (San Francisco fallout, anyone?).

Thing is, this isn’t New York, London or even San Fran (where there IS rent control).  This is Tel Aviv.  The campaign is a good one.  The participants are all letting viewers know that while Tel Aviv “is not their city anymore” it could be if candidate Dov Hanin is elected mayor.


Mid East Blues Part II October 23, 2008

You Know You Live in Israel When. . .

Walking down the street you notice that the neighborhood “cat lady” has put out gefilte fish for the local homeless felines


Mid East Blues. . . October 21, 2008

You know you live in the Middle East when…

You’re walking down the street with your 6-year-old and he suddenly belches.


And you look at him.

And he looks at you.

And you both simultaneously query:

“Well?. . .”

Your expectation is that he say “Excuse me”.

And his?

Aren’t you going to say ‘To your Good Health'”?

does anyone know of a nearby deprogramming center?

Housing Market Waves October 17, 2008

Without Tel Aviv cafes I would have nothing to blog.

Because over seemingly endless cups of frothy hafooch (read: Cafe Ole) sipped in the company of friends and colleagues, I glean information and material.

This week, once again, economy is on the radar.  Not a surprise when day after day the headlines lead with stories of impacted world markets in the wake of the U.S. Wall Street collapse.

Israel’s market hasn’t yet fallen flat – the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) dropped a modest 5.9% for the week – but fallout predictions are grim and a collective eye is keeping watch over economic events as they evolve.

My friend “M“‘s current situation, viewed in lieu of today’s headline:  Housing Market and Consumers on the Ropes – is particularly apt.  This is her story, shared over coffee:

M worked in upper management at an Israeli bank for two decades.  As she tells it, the last few years were hellish – she was bored, the job setting no longer appealed and she was more interested in stepping into the fixer-upper end of private investment real estate.

So M devised a plan: Convince her higher ups to lay her off AND pay her a handsome severance package and in the interim study up on Israel’s private sector real estate laws.  After receiving her settlement check, invest in prime Tel Aviv real estate, refurbish her purchase and sell it for an estimated $50,000.00 profit.

That was back in April and M’s plan was skating along swimmingly; she had purchased and fixed up a 2-bedroom Tel Aviv apartment and she released it onto the market in September.  The rapid increase in value over the past few years in Tel Aviv’s housing market further bolstered her confidence in the plan.

And then Wall Street went into freefall.

“The phone has stopped ringing,” M pursed her lips, worry lines furrowing her forehead. “Israelis aren’t being hit as hard as Americans but right now they’re terrified so they’re holding onto their money.  Nobody’s moving.  Everybody’s watching how this is going to play out. They’re frightened and frozen.”

M concedes she’s in an impossible place, “If I lower my asking price I lose my profit margin and what good is that?  But the severance money is running out and in about two months the mortgage on the investment property is going to start killing me.  And I mean that.  I won’t be able to pay it.”

Do you know what you’re going to doI asked.

“Not at all,” she uttered quietly, exhaling frustration into a balled fist.

On one hand, if there is a drop in the current over-inflated Tel Aviv property values it’ll be a relief.  The prices are ridiculous.

On the other hand, if there is a drop, people like my friend M will loseMaybe even big time.

So in the interim, watching and waiting continues. . .


Natural Disaster October 15, 2008

This cartoon was lifted from this New Yorker piece by Malcolm Gladwell…. I felt compelled to share.


Millionaire Mindset October 11, 2008

Filed under: cool,U.S.,Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:04 pm

I have a millionaire friend.  In fact, I have a few.  It happens sometimes.  Big Whoop.  I’d be willing to bet that a whole lotta people out there have one or two tucked down into the ‘ol pocketbook between the day-planner and the tube of M.A.C. So Chaud.

With any luck, I’ll be the cash-surplused friend someone writes about one day.

In the here and now, however…

Earlier this week I was sitting with my millionaire friend at a mid-town Tel Aviv cafe sipping latte-hold-the-foam and telling her about my panicky day.  Because I was having a panicky day.

The kind of day where I look at my income, eyeball my finances & critique my list of future job assignments and then go off into tangential mode.

Oh My God I’m going to be homeless.  Oh My God I’m going to run out of money.  I won’t be able to buy groceries.  Oh My God I’m never going to be able to afford. . . (unfurl lengthy list of desired assets and goods).

In psychological terms, it’s what is loosely referred to as “downward spiral” thinking.  In Wall Street terms – and particularly after listening to several people express exactly the same panic during a group discussion that day – I’m sorta guessing I tapped into synchronicity .

Stephanie my wise-beyond-her-years Baku-born friend comforted even people who have lots and lots of money and lots & lots of assets wake up some days with those panicky feelings.  In fact, they probably have them more frequently than average income people and I’m guessing they hit harder.  There’s more at stake.

Really?  I had never thought of it that way.  But of course she was right.

The trick she continued is in talking yourself down out of that place.  Because if you allow yourself to go there, you can become entrenched and have a tough time getting out. You have to believe that there’s enough out there for you, too.

You mean the Trust that the Universe will Provide theory, I asserted.

Exactly, she replied.

Now I know that last bit about the universe may sound like a whole lotta airy fairy hoakie New Age drivel.  Oh there she goes on the San Francisco track again. But I believe in it.  I truly do.  I see it work all the time in my life. I just need reminding sometimes.

In any event, I felt a whole lot better after that talk.

Especially when we got around to discussing our respective families.

It turns out that my younger brother Josh’s habit at the ripe age of four of charging down the front stairs into our entrance hall on his Big Wheel was chump change compared to the affinity her two older brothers held for fire

My mother went out once – literally for 5 minutes – to buy a loaf of bread at the kiosk down the street.  When she rounded the corner to our street, flames were leaping from the 1st floor windows.  The boys had set the furniture on fire.  Again.

Are you kidding me?  I gasped.

Naw.  We were the kids other kids weren’t allowed to visit.  Especially after my brothers set my friend Yazeela’s hair on fire. . .

Yeah, she nodded gravely, noting my response.  My brother flicked a match at her and it stuck in her hair.  Within seconds all those red curls were on fire.  My brother was horrified – he hadn’t meant for it to happen.  Come to think of it, her parents actually allowed her to come back and play.

I was rendered speechless. In my parents’ house they’d have been grounded well into their late 40’s. Her mom didn’t bat an eyelash, as she tells it.

Today her brothers are successful businessmen back in Azerbaijan.  Who don’t set things ablaze.

Geeyad. . .