Friday, September 17, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #167 – dreams, forgiveness and a trip into the Twilight Zone

Once upon a time in Brooklyn we decided to build a dream house. And so we designed it. The dream house was to have limestone countertops, southern exposure, and private parking. And then we remembered an old dream…

When I traded my dream house for my dream life, limestone took a demotion from luxury surface to pesky residue (something I struggle to get out of my hot water urn and off my shower doors) and southern exposure became irrelevant (there’s no shortage of sun in the desert). Yes, I have private parking and, while someone who’s lived on East 3rd Street would easily believe I moved all the way to Israel just for the parking, it’s simply not true.

‘My life is like a dream’ doesn’t mean ‘My life is dreamy’. It means sometimes really weird stuff just pops up like how it does when you are dreaming…

Pot stop
Is it surreal to drive through the “West Bank” following a Haagen Dazs delivery truck? We both drive around the car stopped in the middle of the road because a gigantic pot has fallen out of a truck right in front of it. The Haagen Dazs truck continues straight as I turn into the traffic circle I share with Arab taxis and donkeys from Bet Lehem. I pass a lone Arab house flying the flag of Chile. I honk and wave at my good friend in her pink car and approach the northern gate of Efrat. I pass some Arabs sitting outside on plush living room furniture selling auto parts and transmission fluid. I can’t tell anymore. This is just my life. But sometimes it seems like a strange dream.

Flash back
I almost didn’t leave the house today. I was late for my wax in Jerusalem. I decided to go anyway. The northern gate was blocked on the outgoing side. I inched through the incoming side, praying there were no hidden spikes. This was my foreshadowing. But I wasn’t paying attention. I was wondering where the guy selling car parts from his sofa was today.

There was a ton of traffic in Jerusalem and no parking anywhere. The vibe was reminiscent of searching for parking on Kings Highway. And as I inched past a double parked Volvo, I smiled at the driver. I expected him to smile back at me in my matching Volvo. Except that I forgot I live in Israel now and drive a dusty Mitsubishi Grandis. The traffic and parking thing really transported me back. Woah.

Forgiveness is in the air
As I was missing my wax I was marveling at how the Galgalatz DJs were having an intense conversation about Yom Kippur, teshuvah, and forgiveness. At one point they mentioned “Nach-nachim” – and then explained their made-up word with this one, even funnier -“Extremim”. Does anyone in Israel not know who the Nach-nachim are?

When the beauty salon told me I could come back 7 hours later for the next available appointment, my keen awareness that tomorrow is Yom Kippur – how could I not be aware – the DJs were giving the fast times and divrei Torah - saved me from freaking out about having shlepped into town, driving around with my gas light on for 30 minutes and then turning back, mission unaccomplished. I took a breath and recalibrated the mission.

Twilight Zone
I got to the gas station and it was really the weirdest thing. Every single car in the station had driven in backwards. The station was full and all the cars were facing the wrong way. Lucky for them there are no spikes in the gas station! I, of course, drove in correctly and noticed a little sign on the gas pump while I waited hopefully for sherut meleh (full service). The sign was a picture of a wheelchair and a picture of a horn with ‘x3’ next to it. For a brief moment I wondered if being illiterate and also totally unable to maneuver sherut atzmi (self service) were enough for me to honk three times. Then I wondered if the honking three times was reserved for handicap people everywhere or only in the gas station. Is it a well known thing in Israel?
One honk means move.
Two honks means I already honked and what do you think you’re doing still sitting there?
Three honks means I could actually use some assistance.
Probably it’s limited to the context of the gas station. But I’ll start paying better attention.

So the attendant finally came over to me and I asked him, breathless and full of hope,
Zeh sherut meleh? (it’s full service?)
Zeh balagan! (it’s craziness)
I know! The cars are all going the wrong way!
It’s you! You made balagan with your car!
Me? You mean…
He nodded.
I am backwards? I could not understand. My gas tank was facing the pump and I’d driven in the right way… or so I’d thought.
Slicha! (Forgive me). Should I sivuv? (turn around)
No, it’s beseder. He was very forgiving.
I’m lucky there were no spikes! I'm lucky it's Erev Kippur! A year of filling gas and you’d think I could properly follow the arrows into any station. Probably the other drivers thought I should have done better – what with my dusty Mitsubishi I really look like someone who knows better – but the mood was easy and no one honked, not even one time.

There were dream-like (not dreamy!) characters at the gas station – a tattooed heavy set middle aged man wearing short white shorts, another heavier set middle aged man with a black toupĂ©e that sat on his head like a helmet. They helped me navigate out of my backward spot and as I drove off I offered a sincere plea.
Yesh kavod beshviel ha seder shel ha macomb! (I have respect for the ‘order’ here). Ma’mash slicha! (I’m really sorry).

After a day filled with dreams, forgiveness, driving around, and turning around I drifted off to sleep on my sofa. I woke to the sound of my dishwasher jerking to life after a 30 second power outage, a sound as familiar as donkeys braying at dawn. The power is back and the dream sequence continues…

Gmar hatima tova!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #166 – What’s in a name?

As we drove down from the north last month we tried to see which beach along the Kineret was most beautiful, most inviting, most popular. Bob and I were cross referencing road signs with our handy map.
Dugit – do you see Dugit?
Yes! Here’s Dugit!
Golan – do you see Golan Beach?
I think, wait a minute, yes! Golan Beach!

My head is down looking for the next beach on the map…
Hey! This beach looks amazing! Look at all those people in the water! What’s this beach called?
Scanning for roadside signage…

A qualified confession (everybody’s doing it)
Bob has an Israeli cousin Nava who has been Navoosh as long as I have known her.

Today I was in a neighboring yishuv, the predominantly Haredi Beitar Illit. A woman was calling to her son, Levy. Except that she called him in a way that only Israeli’s (religious and secular alike) call their children.
Ley-voosh. Ley-voosh tzaddik!

My baby was born on a Tuesday. We didn’t name her until Saturday morning in shul. We didn’t decide on her name until Saturday morning, a few minutes before Bob left for shul. I have 4 other children. For four full days they were living with a nameless baby. Well, maybe it was four full minutes. As soon as they saw us hesitate with the name, they awarded her a ‘temporary name’.
We’ll call her Pizza.
And they did.
And the neighbor’s children came to see the baby Pizza.
And the neighbors themselves came to see the baby Pizza.
And Shabbat morning came and went. Pizza became Rachel Merav. On paper, anyway.
Pizza stuck.
And then, needing a nickname, Pizza became Pete.
Any of this really could have happened in New York. But the Israeli thing is what happened next.
Pizza, Pete for short, became Peetoosh. And she’s been Peetoosh ever since.
She is 10 months old this week and she responds to Peetoosh. She also responds to Raheloosh, Meravoosh and Stinky Pants but not as consistently.
One day she will surely reclaim the glorious names we bestowed upon her that Shabbat morning – probably when she starts dating – but in the meantime she is and will continue to be our most delicious Israeli baby.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #165 – English is probably a very confusing language also

Waitress at a wedding last week: Keh-ves or sohl-mun?
I had salmon for lunch but as far as I know, keh-ves is drywall.
I’ll take the sohl-mun.
Bob sat down.
The waitress reappeared: Keh-ves or sohl-mun?
She put something in front of him. I didn’t recognize it as drywall. It smelled delicious.
What is that?
Keh-ves. Lamb.
I thought keh-ves was drywall.
Bob, stumped, quiet: I think you’re right.
Bob, to the rest of the table: How do you say drywall in Hebrew?
The response, in unison: Geh-ves!

Sometimes it’s just the context
After a year, I finally figured out how to order 4 slices of pizza – you ask for 4 meshoolashim (literally, 4 triangles). So last Shabbat one of our guests, an army medic, was retelling an exciting story of how he was in a Tel Aviv mall and there was a medical emergency and a request for anyone with medical training to report to the scene. He and another medic showed up and realized the elderly woman who’d fallen and dislocated her shoulder needed to be carefully transported.
We needed meshoolashim so we could move her.
At this point I interrupted the story.
You needed slices of pizza?
No! We needed, you know, meshoolashim.
Apparently there is some type of medical equipment/sling/bandage/transporty thing in Israel that, when needed, is never confused with slices of pizza.

A heads up
If you offer an Israeli 7 year old noodles and she asks for ketchup, chances are she will prefer the sweet Israeli Osem brand to your expensive imported Heinz.