Showing posts with label .M O B I L E F R I E N D L Y. Show all posts
Showing posts with label .M O B I L E F R I E N D L Y. Show all posts

May 17, 2019

No Home Depot Here

He’s standing over the kitchen island of my little rental, drawing horizontal and vertical shapes, naming them, and asking me what I want the porch of my new home to look like, this or that? His picture is a disparagement of ladders.

The words he’s using, all of them English, mean nothing to me. There’s a communication gap here. I finally get it. My carpenter is from L.A. I am a lifetime New Yorker; I will understand nothing he says.  

We go out to the courtyard where I point to the lattice work of a neighbor’s pergola and demand louvered instead. The porch guy pulls his reflector shades up onto his yarmulke, repeats my request, and asks if he got it right. I nod.

“You can’t get louvered in Israel.”
He looks at me like I’m breakable, and breaks it to me carefully.

“There is no Home Depot here.”

He waits to see how I take the news, writes LATTICE in large letters on his notepad, and packs off.

I return to the kitchen, gather my purse, water bottle, and books, and blunder out to catch my bus.

The road up from my village is being enlarged. Our bus gets stuck behind a highway construction backhoe. A semi-circle of kids and their fathers stand riveted, watching the backhoe operator lift stones from here and dump them there.

I don’t know how it starts, but someone’s opened a super-size bag of cookies and is handing them around to fellow spectators. A parent shouts at the backhoe, shouting goes around, and now the operator applies his brake, jumps down, wipes his hands on his pants, and accepts a cookie from the father with the goods.

More fathers step forward, the operator makes wide gestures over the landscape; the men look thoughtful, like they’re pondering a very difficult piece of Talmud. Eventually, our bus continues.

By the time we reach the City, a baby girl’s screaming soprano up front competes with raging tenors in the rear. We stop at an urban traffic light, where a small arrow points to “Dead Sea.” I think of a sign tacked to a skyscraper in London pointing south-west, reading, “Staten Island.” Is it really possible to get to the Dead Sea from this intersection?

At the second bus stop in the City, a female soldier, wearing bookworm glasses and looking like she’s on her way to class, steps down. I wait while she helps the mother with the wailing daughter. When my foot hits land, I’m in Jerusalem. 

Apr 17, 2019

Terror Night Wedding

The son of my lawyer, Dina, is getting married tonight and she has just about obligated me by contract to show my face for the ceremony. The wedding is across the street from Jerusalem’s large central market where a pigua, a terrorist attack, hit this morning. In my evening bag I carry pepper spray which I do not know how to use and which looks as menacing as a canister of breath freshener. I have two sharp pencils. I have the dull pin of an old brooch. I have no chance if a pigua hits tonight.

One route to this wedding is through the town of Beitar. The bus winds past a stretch of trees which reminds me of a parkway on Long Island. When we travel through concrete tunnels erected to postpone bullets blowing off my skull, I remember I’m not headed towards my brother’s Oyster Bay colonial. At a checkpoint, a civilian has another in a bear hug; they’re both giggling. Our driver opens his window and says something that sobers them. On a thin meridian, shoulder to shoulder, soldiers stand guard.

We pass between razor wire fences into Beitar. A life size diorama of ibex, sheep, and deer graze at a giant welcome sign. One large billboard encourages – enjoy Shabbat, from the minute it comes to the minute it leaves. Another warns – you’re bad talking others?  I don’t want to hear it! The only one to jump when two figures in SWAT gear and masks board our bus at the front door and exit at the back, is me. 

I reverse the trip in the dark. My bus is stuck behind a truck that says FedEx International. I imagine the truck plowing the Atlantic, crossing Europe, and landing in front of us, all on a single tank of gas. The driver is tuned in to a radio station he selected in New Jersey. His radio reports that the Garden State Parkway is backed up for miles, the new Miss America can drive a tractor, and nothing about pigua in the soft Judaean Hills.

On the hill to my village we halt at a road block. Two soldiers, one a woman with a French braid and a sub-machine gun, examine the trunk of a car. A loud crack terrifies me. It’s the limb of a tree, victim of a recent conflagration.

Jan 17, 2019

Cycle Man

The computer store is my last stop in the mall. Two guys work here, one in a yarmulke and one not. When I enter, they’re poring over a magazine, heads together, and murmuring. I’d be concerned about their reading material except they don’t startle, or even note that I’m right in front of them, tapping my nails on the glass display. When I ask for printer ink one smacks his lips, dog ears a page, and reluctantly pulls himself away. I glance at the cover: there, glossy and inviting, a four color spread of motherboards, chargers, routers, and drives. I sit down and wait. 

A bear of a man fills the doorway. Tattoos slither from the slab of one shoulder down his arm and drop anchor at his fingers, from which a red motorcycle helmet dangles. Wild curly hair goes unchecked. I’m calculating how low the pepper spray is buried in my purse when Cycle Man pauses, touches the door’s mezuzah, and kisses his fingers.

And here I have to do a replay.

It took only seconds, but Cycle Man closed his eyes, paused with the deep concentration of a devout Jew, and slowly kissed the mezuzah.

The clerks look up and go wild, “Yossi! You’re back!”  My ink is tossed aside. The three shake hands, elbows, and engage in a kind of arm wrestle that to men in Israel must translate as, “Has it been that long? I’m very glad to see you. How are you doing?” Cycle Man, in the softest tone replies, “Thank G-d.”

I catch only some of what Cycle Man says: hospital, four months, fine, fine, Thank G-d.

The clerks remember I exist. I plunk down my credit card. The salesman bags my ink and rings me up, all the time drilling Yossi with questions rat-tat-tat-tat, when from the mall a woman wails, “Mommy, no!”

Yossi bounds out, the two sales guys follow.  A tiny Filipina caregiver is struggling to keep an old woman from slipping out of her wheel chair. The woman’s head is bare scalp and white straw; her tongue is lolling to a side. Her eyes open and close in waves, like she’s drowning. 

In a quiet voice, Yossi says something to the clerks, who pull out their phones. With three fingers of his imprinted arm Yossi palpates the side of the old woman’s neck. I’m standing right there.  On his inner arm now exposed, in the color of dusk, a tattoo of the galaxy spins toward his pulse.

A team from Magen David Adom arrives in a flash. One of the EMTs kisses Cycle Man on the top of his head, “Yossi. You’re back.”

Aug 17, 2018

Hot Brothers Spice Shop

The flower store lady is juggling two vases, marigolds, keys, and the tail of her sari. When her husband rushes to help, his yarmulke falls to the ground. In a distant language, she upbraids him. He allows the door of their shop to slam, leaving squashed foliage and the odor of turmeric outside. I am tired of cottage cheese. I have Basmati rice. I will go to Jerusalem, buy spices, and make curry for Shabbat. 

Only thirty days an immigrant to Israel, this is my first outing to Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market – the Shuk.

Even before I step up the stone stair to Spices by the Brothers Chamami, roughly, the Hot Brothers, a teenage boy waves his arms like I'm radioactive. He calls out, not taking his eyes off me, to a chubby middle aged man, who intercepts me and leads me to a chair. I plop my stuff down, my Trader Joe's bag on top, and wonder if anyone suspects I'm American.  

I ask for cardamom, cumin, and turmeric in Hebrew, from my cheat sheet. I ask for chili pepper, except I get the vowels wrong. The owner grins over his scooper. I've asked for a Talmudic discourse, chili style. 

Mr. Hot is gracious; he asks me in English how many scoops. I'm confused. Instead of little plastic bottles, he's digging deep into burlap sacks of spice. I buy by the kilo, and make a curry for Shabbat that’s almost too hot to eat.

Six months from now there will be a terrorist attack here smack in the middle of the shopping day. Until then, I’m still on my honeymoon with Israel.

Jul 17, 2018

Smack Myself in the Head

It’s the day before Yom Kippur. I have to see my lawyer for round two of purchasing an apartment in Israel. I’m so nervous I throw my sunglasses out with the trash. Now I’m more nervous; I pounce on a boy who’s pushed in front of me to board the bus. Kids here come first and go first. Girls understand queue decorum; I make a mental note to teach the boys.

I return from the lawyer to my rental, locate my rubber gloves, and storm out to the huge orange bin to dig out my glasses. The bin had been overflowing for weeks; last night miraculously it was emptied and my sunglasses are clearly visible, at the bottom, four feet down. There’s only one person in sight, a boy waiting for a bus. I ask him to help, thinking we’ll turn the monster over and I’ll replace its filthy contents. He smiles, jumps in, rescues my glasses, and hands them to me with a grin. I make a mental note to smack myself in the head.

Towards the end of Yom Kippur I re-enter the little synagogue. Nine year old girls are pouring their hearts. I want to tell them they have never done anything to warrant such contrition, but that would be like yelling no fire in a theater; the girls would be alarmed.

The shofar blows. There’s clapping, and singing, Next Year in Jerusalem. I get confused, and want to shout, “The bus stops right outside, why wait?” But the singing refers to Jerusalem restored. The girls file out like royalty. Outside, boys are dueling with bamboo rods ready for the roofs of Sukkot. A tiny toddler almost gets skewered. His brother catches him in his left arm, kisses his curly head, and with his right arm, duels on.