Stefanella's Drive Thru

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Trashy December 19, 2010

While out covering a story today I heard a must-share anecdote

Background:  The locale was Tel Aviv’s landfill.  Not the most pleasant of surroundings, admittedly, but one eventually adjusts to the pervasive odor generated by multiple tons of trash.

I was interviewing the head of Tel Aviv’s recycle/renewable energy site at the landfill and as we watched tons of plastic bags, bottles, cartons, containers and the like empty onto conveyor belts aided by municipal employees, I commented:

“God, I’ll bet you’ve had some nasty accidents here with people falling into the compactors…”

The head of the recycle plant nodded his head vigorously and replied:  I could tell you some stories.

“Go on then, let’s hear,” I replied.

And this is how it went:

A few years ago the trash conveyor belt recycle line employees came banging on his office door in panic: 

“There’s a baby in the compactor!  There’s a baby in the compactor!”

He ordered an immediate machine shut down and then ran to the area to investigate.

Sure enough, there was an arm sticking out of the trash compactor heap.

But it clearly wasn’t a baby’s, he explained.

Someone called out in Hebrew: “Come out of there!” but there was no response.  Then in Russian. Nothing.  Arabic.  Still nothing.  Amharic.  Nada.

Then someone  yelled ‘Get out of there!’ in Yiddish.  And a reply in German came from inside the heap: ‘No!  I’m not coming out!  I’m naked’

The men gathered some clothing together and coaxed the man out.  He then told his story.

A German tourist, he had gotten drunk in a Tel Aviv pub the night prior and en route back to his hotel, was accosted, beaten up, robbed, stripped and then tossed into a dumpster.

The trash assembly line crew discovered him moments before he was headed into the “crusher”

They summoned an ambulance and police and when the medics arrived, one of the women commented: ‘He’s awfully good looking; shame about the smell.’

Divine intervention?

(more…)

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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.

 

Art’s Passion August 8, 2009

For a long time I thought my overwhelming “museum feelings” were linked to certain sites or specific pieces of art.

The type of feelings that envelop with totality and without warning when viewing works of art.   

Like the time tears welled threateningly while glimpsing the Venus de Milo at the Louvre.

Or when my heart swelled wildly while touring Tutankhamun‘s tomb treasures in Cairo.

Perhaps the love affair with art began when I was in high school;  I chose French Renaissance Art as my subject for a term paper which meant spending weekends – quite willingly – in Cincinnati’s Art Museum Library conducting research.  My instinct, however, sez it started years before.

Nonetheless, I find that whenever I frequent museums or art happenings – Burning Man included – there’s usually a painting, sculpture, fixture or installation that renders me “struck”.  I get a lump in my throat and my vision goes blurry.

Yesterday’s SFMOMA visit was no exception; I was struck several times by vastly different exhibits.

Initially touring the permanent exhibits, I was quite surprised by Paul Klee early works described as “monstrous figures.”  I love Klee’s sweeping grandness and color but I was taken aback by this dark, detailed material.

Then I felt a swell of gratitude taking in originals by Dali, Diego Rivera, Magritte and Warhol.

The day, however, belonged to cutting edge fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon, whose career spanned 50+ years.

Avedon’s 1950’s-1960’s photos of Twiggy, Brigitte Bardot and Katharine Hepburn oozed natural beauty and starlet material.   But his image of Marilyn Monroe seemed to capture the icon’s mix of blazing sex symbol & confused nymph that would be her legacy.  THAT image presented an emotional moment for me.

Equally moving were Avedon’s images of Louis Armstrong, Igor Stravinsky, Nureyev’ “En Pointe” and Merce Cunningham who died two weeks ago.  His politicians spanned decades and worlds removed from Kissinger to Carter to Obama as Senator.  

Equally moving was the series of photographs documenting his father’s losing battle to cancer and the commissioned body of “In The American West” works portraying faces of middle America.  What a career span and what an incredible talent.

The MOMA also featured works by Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams which presented yet another revelation.  Georgia didn’t do it for me.  She used to but not anymore. That’s just the way it goes, I guess.  But the Ansel Adams works spurred  awe and yet another throat lump over his Sand Dunes gelatin silver print.

After touring, I sat on the museum rooftop in the sun beside the large installations basking in the afterglow of appreciation.

Museums are magical places; I am oh-so-lucky to have the mobility, eyesight and wherewithal to visit them.

 

Matthew the Bully July 24, 2009

In the car driving home from summer camp this week. . .  

Mom, there’s this kid at camp.  His name is Matthew.  And …well…last week my friend Kenny made a joke about Matthew and I laughed.

Now Matthew says that because I laughed I have to pay him two dollars.

Pay him two dollars or what?  What is Matthew **f**k** going to do? I muttered under my breath, gripping the steering wheel tightly.

What mom?  What did you say?

What did Matthew say would happen if you don’t pay him? I asked, all sweetness and light.

He’ll hit me.

He’ll hit who? I internally raged.  We’ll see who’s going to get hit.  Threatening MY BOY??  Uh uh.  No.

Sweetheart, I reassured, You don’t owe him anything and you didn’t do anything wrong.  Laughing isn’t a crime. What do you want me to do?

Could you talk to Matthew or to the camp counselor? he asked.

Sure doll.  And don’t worry about it.  It’ll be okay.

I later consulted with a level-headed male friend who confirmed that  since my son doesn’t live here or see Matthew on a regular basis i.e. he doesn’t present an ongoing threat, it would be best to bypass the bully – unless I want to add legal implications to my troubles – and consult with a camp counselor.

So I heeded his advice.  And so far, all is quiet on the Matthew Front.



 

Suleiman the Coffee Guy July 12, 2009

A few weeks ago while shopping in Tel Aviv’s Carmel open-air market I ducked into a side street tchochkes shop to buy a glass carafe.  Mine had accidentally banged against the marble counter top at home and cracked into pieces.

It was midday and the outside heat and humidity were starting to  bear down.  The narrow shop,  divided by a sales rack crammed with a range of home appliance and accessory items, was cooled only by a high-powered standing fan.    Cluttering the shelves, a range of inexpensive items vied for space.  There were glass tea pots, no-frill wine glasses, cheap dishes sets, Turkish coffee Finjans, pots and pans, stainless steel plated silverware, dime store variety candles, laundry clips, waste baskets…Garden variety tchochkes.

As I scouted a glass carafe, I bantered with the shop owner, a tanned and fit 70-something year old man with silver hair, Coke-bottle glasses, thick lips and wearing a maroon and white Hawaiian shirt.  We joked a bit about the heat, I commented about his store’s cramped quarters and, hearing my accent, he asked where I was from.

Then, while ringing my sale, he gingerly queried:  “If I make you Turkish coffee, will you sit and drink with me?”

My knee jerk response was to beg off with a “have to run” excuse.

But during the split seconds of contemplation I came up with: “I have time.  Why not?  What’s the harm?  Why not have AN EXPERIENCE?”

So I pulled up a wooden stool and seated myself behind the counter as he went to the back room to boil water.  A few minutes later he returned with two demitasse cupfuls of black sludge and sat down beside me on his stool.

He introduced himself as Suleiman (Soo-lee-mohn) and told me he was from Iraq.  In Hebrew, his name is Solomon.  He asked my name.  “What?” he repeated several times, scratching his cheek and furrowing his brow.  He then shook his head and announced:  “No. It won’t work. I’m calling you ‘Hellwa.'”

I laughed but didn’t protest.  Hellwa means “Beautiful” in Arabic.

Suleiman told me about himself.  He lives in a Tel Aviv suburb, has owned his shop for 40 years and is married.  The marriage was not good, he shared, but admitted he was loathe to walk out at his age and after so many years spent with the same woman.  “Sometimes it’s just easier to stay together,” he sighed.

His malcontent came as no surprise.  Because unless he’s a connoisseur of new people, I somehow doubt he’d otherwise be inviting a younger woman in for coffee and re-dubbing her “Hellwa“.

But he wasn’t bitter.  He was funny and his attitude was upbeat.  So when he jovially started on the a man is a man, AFTER ALL, and has needs – needs his wife was apparently uninterested in meeting –  I didn’t get the usual surge of:  “Oh god, here it comes.  THIS is going to be uncomfortable to deflect.”

Suleiman was a  coffee-pal/buddy sort of guy.  He told me about his girlfriend, a good girl he sees several times a week who he “doesn’t have to pay” and who is content with their arrangement.

And he asked about my situation and listened to my history in brief before serving up,  as people tend to do in this part of the world, advice.  Suleiman told me what type of man I should find, what type of man I should avoid and estimated the time it should take for me to “settle down and be taken care of”.

When one of his regulars,  a stout 50-ish Russian woman looking for 2 medium sized drinking goblets, dickered with him on price, he rolled his eyes and elbowed me with a grin.  “Okay okay,” he conceded.  “You’re going to put me out of business but I’ll give you your price.”

I sat a while longer and sipped my coffee as Suleiman tended to other customers.  When the cup contents were down to dregs alone, I stretched and stood to go.

“Come visit me again,” Suleiman winked and smiled before planting a peck on my cheek.

“I will,” I promised, meaning it.

It had been AN EXPERIENCE.  And I don’t mind going back for seconds.

 

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

 

Found the Sh*tCreek Cure-All! April 5, 2009

Thanks to my pal-ee Sallee for this one…Mwahahaaa

shitcreek