Stefanella's Drive Thru

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Clinical Death September 7, 2009

There’s this older woman who goes to the  same Tel Aviv park I take my dog Butch to for exercise every day. She & I tend to show up about the same time in the evenings and we usually sit next to each other.   

I don’t know her name but she has kicky, short orange hair she covers with a baseball cap and she uses a cane to get around.  Her manicured nails are always painted the same shade of frosty white, she pencils in her eyebrows, wears blue eyeshadow and her lipstick is a Sienna tinged with bright red.

On particularly hot days she brings bottled water and a communal drinking bowl for the dogs.  And before sitting down on the hard stone bench under the lime tree, she always spreads the day’s newspaper beneath her.

I met her a few months ago and we chatted back then about dog things.  That’s what we humans tend to do when  getting acquainted as the canines frolic.  At the time, she told me about a great “vacation spot” for dogs (read: kennel with a run) she had placed her furry companion in while she spent a month in the hospital.

I didn’t ask her about the hospitalization.  It seemed intrusive for a first encounter.

We’ve seen each other at the park for a few months now but we’ve never really gotten past the “which vet do you go to?” and “where do you buy your dog supplies?” type of banter. But last week I pulled her dog out of a fight and that changed the dynamic.

I didn’t have a choice, really.  No one else went into the fray and she’s physically incapable.  I mean, she is hovering around the mid-80’s mark and she’s frail and her 75-pound mutt is obtuse.  The other person was frantically trying to pull his dog away as hers attacked but he was losing the battle.

So I grabbed hers by the collar and with a sharp, stern tone commanded “NO!” while staring him squarely in the eyes.  I was attempting to present as The Alpha.  Thankfully, it worked.

After that wee bit of pulse-raising drama, I returned to my place on the bench beside the woman and remained quiet.  I really, but really don’t like making “a thing”  out of something like that and it started and finished quickly and without incident so in my mind, it was over.

The woman fretted a bit, though, about her dog being out of control and then she shifted her tone: “I have something to tell you.”

Oh?  I cocked my head and raised an eyebrow.

“I saw my own funeral,”  she started.  I was silent.  I mean, how DOES one counter a statement like that?

When I was in the hospital,” she pressed on, “I died.  I was clinically dead. I couldn’t tell you how long it lasted but they told me later they had pronounced me dead.

I stared intently and swallowed.  She continued:

While it was happening, I rose above the bed and I was transported to the kibbutz where I have my plot.  I saw my family standing there around the grave.  I was watching the whole thing,” she relayed.  “And you know what?”  I was hanging on to her every word   “It felt wonderful.  I was at peace.  It was like letting go and relaxing.  Everything was okay.

I was astonished.  “Did they tell you how long you were dead?  Do you remember coming back?” I prodded.

No, no.  They didn’t want to talk about it,” she dismissed with a wave of the hand.  “And I don’t remember how I came back.  But I’ll tell you one thing:  That business about a light?”  she scrunched her face in disgust.   “Nonsense.   Light Shmight.  Don’t believe it.  I was floating.  That’s it.”

I had to go just then.  But I could have listened for a very long time.  I’ll let you know if she has more to tell.

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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.

 

Dog Eat Dog (or Kaka) May 9, 2009

Would somebody please pinch me?  ‘Cause I’m having a really tough time remembering why I went out and got a dog.

They’re cute and loyal and great companions and you thought it would be great for your kid and to safeguard the house.  And don’t forget:  Man’s Best Friend.

All of that’s true.  But I’m a woman.  And our 10-month-old black Lab mix is truly tapping into my serenity.

Ahh.  A puppy.  Why didn’t you say so?

Yes, and?  I realize that puppies are notorious for gnawing at walls, chewing on furniture and succumbing to indoor accidents but my primary problem at the moment is with the things my not-so-little Butch has been getting into when we go out into the big world.

Let’s just say he evokes an acid trip-esque Andy Warhol Maurice way before he’ll get billing as Norman Rockwell’s Boy Meets His Dog.

What is it snookums?  Go ahead and spill.

Thanks.  Last week after an exhausting day of traipsing up to Jerusalem, rushing back to Tel Aviv, ferrying my son to swim practice and buying groceries, I took Butch to the dog park to play.  I was reading my book while he romped with his friends Juno and Mitzee.

“Uh..You might want to go get Butch,” Juno’s person suggested, breaking into my reading tranquility zone.  “They’re all in the bushes and…well you should probably go get him.”

For the non-dog people out there, here’s a shocker for you (consider this your disclaimer):  For an asinine reason I have yet to even want to fathom, dogs like to roll in kaka.  And eat it too.  And usually they find it in bushes.

So when Mitzee’s person grabbed the stained white Samoyed by the collar and, gagging, pulled her from the crime scene, I  knew what was in store for me.  Butch was covered in it.

I didn’t gag.  I didn’t even speak.  I hooked him to his leash and promptly marched him to our front yard for a spigot bubble bath x 2.

The next day I reasoned:  Keep him on leash and he can’t roll.  True.  But he CAN stick his snout through the neighbor’s fence and grab cat poop.

The day after I reasoned:  He needs to run free or he’ll go nuts.  I’ll take him to a different park where perhaps there are no treasure bushes.

Which I did.  And as I sat reading on the park bench, off in the distance I saw him toss something small in the air with his mouth and when it landed, flip on his back and roll over it.

Disclaimer #2 for the non-dog people:  Animals roll in dead animals.  I dunno.  Don’t ask.

This was a dead mouse he had unearthed somewhere.  You’d be amazed at the powerful stench one tiny carcass can radiate.  Especially when a 90-pound dog has rolled over it.

March home.  Bubble bath #2 in as many days.

I’ll save the other bits.  There are more.  But in the name of good taste (har dee har) and at the prompting of my life coach who advises focusing on the positive, I stop here and instead call up some good points.

  • My son loves him and the two together are wonderful to behold
  • He’s a great watchdog
  • He is very funny without trying to be
  • He’s an incredibly good natured & playful dog
  • He will grow up one day

Thank you for indulging me.  Over & out.    crazybutch

 

Bad Hair Day March 23, 2009

See these beautiful shiny solar dishes? They are located on a new Israeli solar farm on the brink of going operational. Yesterday Stefanella was privy to a press tour of the grounds and interview time with the scientists who innovated the farm’s new solar harnessing technology.
dishes

See the nice man in the picture? Come closer. Notice that wee bit of raspy smoke appearing to rise out of the crown of his head? Nope, it’s not Photoshop.
andysmokes

Heed this lesson kiddies: When standing in a field amidst solar dishes, position yourselves far far away from the reflective panels.

 

The Big Ask: ACT NOW! February 12, 2009

Israel elections are past and a new government is in the making.  The Green party I voted for didn’t even make it into the bleeding government.  THAT is crazy.

It’s all about the future – for us and our children. If we combust, who cares who’s holding the scepter?

Check out the video. .

http://www.thebigask.eu