Stefanella's Drive Thru

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

Heroin (NOT) Chic August 18, 2009

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I was breakfasting with a group of people at a semi-dive-diner place in the Upper Haight when my brother motioned toward the booth opposite us.

“It’s going to take them a while to get through the meal,” he commented with a grin.

I looked over at the couple he had indicated: A male and female in their mid-twenties, both tattooed and pierced – typical Haight fare.  They sat opposite each other with hands resting on the table cluttered with uneaten plates of assorted breakfast fare.  Their eyes were closed.

“Oh, they’re saying Grace,” I mused internally.  Because where I live these days aka Holy Land Central or Israel, that type of thing is plausible.  Heck, I’ve seen groups of German tourists on a busy Tel Aviv street corner holding hands with heads bowed praying for…Well I have no idea, actually.  A break in traffic?  Good beach weather?  Ideal photographic lighting conditions?  I dunno.

Then I peered more closely at the couple, their heads lolling.  Oh  Wow! the realization dawned.  They’ve dosed on heroin.

It’s been years since I’ve lived in close proximity to the urban drug culture and all it entails: addicts sprawled in doorways, eyes at half mast as the heroin high hits, crack fiends pacing nervously, their movements disjointed and stiff, wayward alcoholics with red faces and crusty clothing rambling incoherently from front stoops.

My stomach dropped and I felt nauseous.  This is insane.  We’re sitting in a restaurant and they’re dosing. My San Francisco dwelling companions snickered and rolled their eyes in a sort of  Oh God, the neighbors misbehaving AGAIN sort of way. I forced myself not to stare.

Later, my brother confided:  That was gross, man.  Totally sick.

Well…yeah.


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Going Global August 16, 2009

A few years ago when I was living in San Francisco, I shared an ongoing dilemma with an Israeli friend:

I feel torn between being here and living in Israel,” I told her.  “I don’t know where I should be.”

“Why do you have to decide?” she posed.  “Of course you choose a main locale for residence but as far as I’m concerned, the more comfortable you become inside your own skin the more comfortable you become wherever you are once you’ve lived in different places.  And that’s a great place to be.  You become a citizen of the world and you can find happiness wherever you go.

At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around that concept.  I felt I should make a decision and declare my loyalty on some level to one place or the other.  No in-between nonsense would do. And the concept of “global citizen” or feeling a sort of neutral happiness wherever I might be was way beyond my comprehension.

But, by jobe, I believe I finally got it.

For numerous reasons I won’t go into here & now, I returned to Israel four years ago after a decade hiatus in San Fran.  Since returning, however, each summer I travel with my son to Cincinnati so he (and I) can maintain ties with my family & he can retain his command of the English language and gain exposure to American culture.

My parents and two of my sibs live in “Nati” &  it’s where I grew up.  But when I left there after college – which included a 2-year overseas stint at Tel Aviv University –  I vowed never to return.  Bloody god forsaken conservative place that indicted its own Contemporary Arts Center for running the Mappelthorpe Exhibit (!) was how I viewed matters.  Not for me. Gateway to the North, indeed.  There would be no containing me THERE, thanks.  I longed for the enchanted promise of Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go.

But here I am, years later, turned completely around & feeling the warm glow of “global.”

This summer my son and I spent time in Cincinnati, took a side trip out to San Francisco and now we’re back in Tel Aviv.  And I can honestly say that in each place I found home.  Home in cultural events that included Opera and a World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, the MOMA in San Fran and upon returning to Tel Aviv, a visit to my local gallery to check out the latest exhibit.

I found home in culinary delights in Cincinnati’s trend spots: Bootsy’s for tapas,  Teller’s for rasberry vinaigrette over greens and goat cheese, my mom’s for home-cooked Indonesian chicken and a dear friend’s for backyard grilled Talapia wrapped in lettuce leaves.

I relaxed back into San Francisco food comfort with frighteningly potent margaritas served up at Puerto Alegre & generous, steaming bowls of traditional Vietnamese Pho.  And upon returning to Holy Land Central (aka Israel) I hit the supermarket on a Friday at 2 p.m. – total cold-water immersion into THIS local food culture.

Home, everywhere, is about the people.  I spent neery an idle moment in Cincy thanks to FB and reconnecting with old friends and loved ones who indulged me with tennis,  poolside lounging, movie outings, dinners, drinks and loads of engaging conversation.   Being back “Home” was an absolute treat and there are, by gosh and golly, wide swaths of WILD in Cincy.

In San Fran, I reconnected with my other sib and visited with friends and local merchants I hadn’t seen in years.  Particularly pleasant was sharing a vacation apartment in the city with friends who had flown in from Australia, Manhattan, Berlin and Serbia to be together. My son benefitted from reconnecting with children from his infant and toddler days.

Back in Tel Aviv less than a week, we’ve received separate invites to go snorkeling, camping, to overnight in the country and spend a weekend at a “mango tree resort”.  I am absolutely blessed.  No doubt about it.

I ran into that old Israeli friend last year.  She’s back in Tel Aviv and super busy with two young children and studies.  But she still has that positive outlook and cheerful disposition.  And she still maintains her status as a global citizen.

I believe I’ve joined her ranks.  Fine by me because feeling at home wherever I might be is a wonderful place to be.  But it’s also painful.  Leaving loved ones and engaging aspects of each culture behind isn’t easy.  But I’ll take it.  Because “living globally” far outweighs the absurd compulsion of having to declare loyalty or choose.

 

Pedestrian Beware! May 23, 2009

My backpack loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables, I exited Tel Aviv’s open-air Carmel Market & hopped on my bicycle.

Twenty-five minutes to get home, unload purchases, drink something cold and get to my son’s school in time for pick-up                   

ZING!

I zipped through traffic, weaving from sidewalk to street and back again in an effort to beat the clock.

REALLY not a smart thing to do anywhere but particularly in Israel where offensive driving and fatal traffic accidents are commonplace.

I saw the light turn red but decided to go for it anyway.  I know.  Tsk tsk tsk.  Bad cyclist.

I zipped into the crosswalk and in my peripheral vision sighted the portly, middle-aged male in bermuda shorts, tube socks and running shoes as he stepped off the curb.

I didn’t brake.  Bad bad cyclist.

The pedestrian hastily retreated to the sidewalk and in a thick Scottish accent protested loudly to his companion:

But the light is Green!”

And because I was zipping, I didn’t call out an apology.  I was already gone.

But internally I chuckled.

Yes it’s green. But this is Israel!  Must be a Tourist.  

Technically I guess it could’ve been Manhattan or London or San Fran or Cairo.  It’s sort of an urban thing but it doesn’t make it okay.

I know.  Irresponsible and selfish.

Bad bad bad cyclist.

 

Until the Army April 20, 2009

My 7-year-old is doing really well in swimming.

He sailed through beginner, intermediate and advanced courses last year and has now been selected to join the city league swim team entailing twice-weekly practice training sessions.

Today was the 1st such session and when we  arrived, I had a word with the coach about vacation and how we should handle summer break.

Coach & I didn’t see eye to eye on a start date for my son.  I wanted immediate.  He favored end of summer.

“He’s now in serious training for the long haul,” coach explained.  “So what’s the rush? As I see it, I have him from now until he’s 18 when he goes into the army.”

JOLT.  I had NEVER directly correlated my son with army service in that kind of “oh it’s so obvious he’ll be going in at eighteen” kind of way.  Ever.  And here was this stranger casually linking the two.

Yes, it’s compulsory in Israel for 18-year-olds.  But MY son?  MY budding artist/swimmer?

I didn’t grow up with the concept so it’s totally foreign to me even though it’s ultra ingrained in Israeli society.  I can’t even think about it. I don’t want to.

Jolt aside, I won.  He started practice  today.

11 more years.

 

Mid-East Advertising April 6, 2009

What kind of crazy advertising do they get up to in Israel?  Judge fer yerself.

Thanks to my very funny friend Benji for this one – Benji blogs over at What War Zone.

I am trying to imagine this mini-van with its logo and image of the guy on the magic throne bumping along the streets of my parent’s manicured, Ohio condo community. AHHHH!!!

plumber2

 

Israel Pee Pee Campaign February 6, 2009

If you were wondering how Israel’s election advertising campaigns differ from, say, the U.S. or Europe, take a look at this ad.

It’s for Brit Olam, a co-existence advocating party that warns against “letting  them continue to urinate on us .”

Yikes.  Disgusting and tasteless.

 

The Female Factor February 5, 2009

I’m chagrined the past week. For a few reasons I think.

First of all I’ve been traveling to Jerusalem for work for the past few days.  And each time I get there, right at the entrance are strategically placed massive election posters canvassing tall buildings.  The posters bear images of the three campaigning front runners for the prime minister slot:  Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni.

I’m incensed because some person/s have painstakingly climbed up scaffolding or used pretty impressive ladders or who knows what else and have painted over Livni’s face.  On each and every poster.  And there are a lot.  And they’re not easy to get to.  “A” for effort.  Clap *  cough  * clap.  Is it the candidate or her gender?  I muse.

Second:  I phoned up the spokesperson for one of the campaigning Orthodox Jewish parties after hearing a rumor that they had added a woman to their list to offset “the Livni effect”.

“Is it true?  Do you think I can get an interview with her?” I ask.  The man on the other end of the receiver chortles cynically.  “A woman?  Uh no.  We didn’t add a woman,” he sniggers as if I had just suggested:  “Have you, perchance, added a Tuberculosis infected illiterate third grade Hamas devotee to the party list?”     

And lastly, probably fanning the flames of all this disenchantment is the fact that I’m reading Afghan author Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Sunsdescribing, among other things, the absolutely horrific treatment of women in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, civil war and  Taliban rule.  Some excerpts are chilling but the book is not put-down-able.

I read it and contemplate the part of the world I’m living in now and the potential future for this region.

And I have a tough time maintaining a positive outlook.