Stefanella's Drive Thru

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

Chick Versus Chick April 29, 2009

Confession time:  I stand alongside the global multitudes struggling to make ends meet during the current recession. Jobs are scant and it’s downright scary right now.  Especially as a single mom.

Luckily I rely upon faith, hope, networking, routine and friends to buoy me.  And thank goodness for chat rooms and friends’ IM & email messages discussing fear, job scarcity and struggles.  “Thank goodness” not in the Schadenfreude way; I’m grateful not to be alone.  

I felt loads better last week after watching a NY Times video profile of a laid off exec who had formerly managed multi-million dollar accounts and is now pushing a janitor’s broom.  His wife needs cancer treatments so guaranteed health insurance benefits are essential.  He can’t afford the luxury of leisurely looking around.

Instead he kicks off the covers at 4 a.m. each day, checks emails and sends out resumes to potential employers.  He then heads to his janitorial job where, during breaks, he sits in his car placing follow-up calls.  I don’t know if I was more blown away by his story or by his bravado in letting the world know what he currently gets up to between 9 and 5.

I, too, am working overtime at phoning contacts, tapping into networks, making new contacts and attempting to drum up work.

Which makes having to go up against female colleagues doubly frustrating.

I have spoken several times with a work contact about leads in news production.  And each time I talk with this woman  she asks: “But what about your son?  Do you have anyone to take care of him?  I mean he IS young.”

And each time I reassure her  that yes, I do have a network in place.  A really good one.  Not to worry, the childcare issue has never presented a problem.  I even have overnight babysitters.  “I HAVE A VILLAGE!!!” I internally dialogue. “So please, send the work my way.”

But she hasn’t so far.  And I don’t believe she ever will.  Because I don’t think she can wrap her head around my being a single mom and concommitantly producing television news.  Never mind that scores of anchors, producers, editors and camerawomen before me have done just that and are faring quite nicely. Or that I myself have done just that.

I’m being pre-packaged and labeled from the get-go and not only by this particular woman.  Recently a well-known anchorwoman told me:  “You certainly don’t want to work full time or get into a heavy career.  You have your son to think about.” She wasn’t asking.  She was stating how “it is”.    And I thought:  “But you’re so wrong!  By getting into something full time I AM thinking of my son. ”

It reminds me of the time I went to see U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright speak in San Francisco.  Someone in the audience asked if she regretted the choice of fast political track over full time mommy.  She explained that there isn’t a cookie-cutter path for all women – some are meant for careers, others to stay home with kids and others to do a range of things in-between.

But she told the packed house I DO believe there’s a special place in hell for women who give other women a hard time for the path they have chosen to follow.

And the room erupted in applause.

I don’t believe the women I mention here are malicious.  But their notions are misguided and create a certain level of frustration for me.


Easter Greetings April 12, 2009

It’s Easter Sunday and I’ve been trolling the someecards site for clever greetings to mark the occasion.  I chose a few of my favorites & I’m linking here & here

To those celebrating:  Enjoy your holiday.

I was planning to head up to Jerusalem and walk the Via Dolorosa then go on into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to light a candle for those of you who couldn’t make it to Holy Land Central in person today.  But I changed my mind.


Going to the beach and a movie instead.

Happy Easter Anyway!!

Your friend, Stef


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!!!



Waterboarding February 18, 2009

I’ve heard about Waterboarding.  I’ve read about it.  But I never had a visual image in mind of what it entailed.

While surfing Vanity Fair I came across this video.  I like Christopher Hitchens – acerbic as he can be.  Kudos to him for trying it out.  Geeyad.  If the video doesn’t come up on this blog page,  follow this link.  It’s very uncomfortable viewing so I can’t even imagine what the real deal is like.


Purse Snatching November 16, 2008

These days I sometimes forget I’m “living abroad”.  I made the move back to HLC (Holy Land Central) three  years ago making it pretty much impossible to retain the heightened awareness of small nuances and cold water douses to the face marking differences between here and there anymore.     

I still do, however, get the odd jolt on occasion.

Like last week when my electric bill arrived.  It was $300 or triple the usual amount.  Granted, it covered the tail end of hot season here – the end of August and September when air-con use is at a premium – but I scratched my head in earnest pondering how the figure could possibly be correct.

So I phoned up the electric company.  And the rep advised:

Go out in the hallway and look at your electric meter.  Read me the numbers.

So I did.  And she responded with: Yeah, the bill you got is incorrect.  We didn’t read the meters this time around.  We estimated the amount based on average annual use. Throw that bill away and we’ll send you the revised one based on the figure you gave me.


“What would have happened had I paid the guestimated bill?” I inquired, restraining my incredulity.

We’d have eventually sent you the difference – once we did a meter reading.

Gee, call me skeptical but. . .

And on a totally different, marking the differences between here and there track, I was on the boulevard near our house last week attending an outdoor street fair for kids with my 7-year-old.

It was great.  There was a sand pit “archaeological dig” with planted coin relics for kids to unearth, a dark treasure cave for navigating with glow sticks and a treasure chest hunt with pirates and live parrots.

While waiting on a park bench for my young “Indiana” to uncover the lost grail, a total stranger approached.

Will you be sitting here for 5 minutes?

I didn’t answer.  I was sort of waiting, New York or Tel Aviv style, for her motive.

Can you watch my purse?  It’s getting in the way and I want to help my son.. .the woman continued, promptly plopping her leather bag beside me and traipsing off to the dig pit.

I sized up the woman, internally confirming that she was indeed accompanying a minor and not an incognito terrorist handing me a  ticking time bomb intended for doing away with a few dozen archaeologically inclined Israelis on a Friday afternoon.

And then I did that thing in my head that I assume most people would do. Geeyad, lady.  I could walk away with your house and car keys and your cash and credit cards.  Not to mention a nice leather purse.  You don’t even know me!!

But I didn’t.

Definitely, 100% without hesitation, fully guaranteed I can say that type of thing has NEVER happened to me in the U.S.


And it never will.


Bless America or Here & There July 6, 2008

Now that I’ve been living in Holy Land Central (HLC or “Israel”) for a few years, the differences between my former U.S. life versus the adopted Middle East Alternate Plan are becoming more acutely pronounced each time I travel to my parents’ for vacation.

One of the most obvious differences lies in the concept of customer service.

The U.S. model seems to be moving away from “the customer is always right” and thank goodness for that, after all, because it’s a lie. But even in Lebanon, Ohio versus Tel Aviv, Israel, behind-the-counter types are more compliant when compared with their Middle Eastern counterparts.

On July 4th, North America’s Independence Day, I headed to the local outdoor pool to swim laps. It was a chilly gray, drizzly day – 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 Celsius).

When I entered the half-Olympic sized pool area that on sunny days hosts dozens of exuberant kids diving from the boards, scaling the climbing wall and swooshing down the slide, I was the lone patron.

The place was deserted save 3 front desk attendants and 8 on-duty lifeguards – three of them sitting aloft in rain diverting, umbrella-protected chairs dutifully eyeballing. . . an empty pool. Two other lifeguards stood poolside with life-saving rescue tubes strapped across their torsos also staring at. . . water with nothing in it.

Coming from where I come from, i.e. HLC with its lacking sentry-like sense of obligation, I was a bit taken aback. WTF? Where is the common sense in this? I internally dialogued, dutifully pulling my 750 meters through the nippy water.

Once finished, I threw a towel over my shoulders, slipped into my clogs and headed for the parking lot. I was still solo at the club.

“I’m really sorry for not having the concession open while you were here,” a congenial fellow carrying a tray of plastic-sealed hamburger buns remarked in passing as I headed to my car.

Um, it’s okay. Really. I replied, too stunned to come up with anything more intelligent. It seems kind of unnecessary.

Well thanks for understanding anyway,” he countered.

I chuckled as I got behind the driver’s wheel and switched on the heat. Had this been where I LIVE in Tel Aviv . . Well heck, it could’ve been a jam-packed-maximum-capacity day at the club with a line stretching to Oman and the concessions guy on a half-hour coffee break but there’d have been neither regret nor apology.

And the lifeguards standing guard over an empty pool? Well that WAS a trifle excessive by any standard.

On a different note for my Israel-dwelling friends: Go see Wall-E when it opens there on the 10th. Yeah I know it looks like a kid flick but it’s multi-level with a somewhat formidable message.

My wee self-schvitz: Years ago I had the good fortune of interviewing John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton for a Reuters story I was working on; in continued deference to their brilliance as a creative team, I’m semi-plugging Wall-E as the latest notch in the duo’s collectively expanding belt of film gems.


Rent Control Now!! October 12, 2006

As I venture into the Tel Aviv jungle each day on an apartment hunt quest I’m realizing that the British law governing home ownership and rental in Holy Land Central (HLC) is outdated, sad and sorry. Israel is in need of an urgent housing law upgrade to benefit both tenant and landlord.

Take squatting, for instance. No such thing in HLC as the U.S. “Pay Rent or Quit” giving a tenant three days to cough it up or get out. And by get out, I DO mean EVICTION. No mucking around in Yankee-ville. Padlocked front door, all things inside are lost to the landlord and if you have kids, well ya shoulda thought of that sooner, hmmm? On the street. Harsh as hell but..well it’s the American way.
Here the tenant can refuse to pay rent and squat. For an eternity. Because the law states that if children live on the property, the landlord CANNOT forcefully evict. True to life nightmare scenario: Tenant (with Mafia ties) moved into deluxe apartment with his family. He promptly changed the locks and halted rent checks. He and his family (read: KIDS) lived rent-free for two years. One day the owner goes berserk and takes a hammer to the electricity box and to the front door. She is arrested for breaching the law.
Flip side: There is no such thing as rent control. The sky’s the limit on rent increase as is the interpretation of the law when it comes to who fixes what in an apartment gone amok. Landlords will demand the renter insure property or pay for major repairs not linked to normal wear and tear. Exploded water pipe? “Your problem,” sayeth evil owner.
And let’s just say you’re negotiating a new contract agreement with the landlord and the give & take goes awry. “Get out. Your contract is up in a week. Leave.” No thirty days for you, sorry to say. Never mind that the talks broke down and said landlord is unwilling to budge. You leave. Refer back to the bit on squatting for a quick solution to this problem.
It’s time to form an action group, mes compadres. I’ve seen it voiced in public forums. Yallah. Let’s go.