Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

I arrived safely in Tel Aviv. Spesh was waiting for me right outside of customs. He stood so it was easy to see him. I was engulfed in a sea of Puerto Rican tourists as I approached him. We cracked up and I gave him an awkward little half hug.

He drove me to his place in Jaffa, which is a town directly south of Tel Aviv. I lay down on his small sofa and put my feet up. Spesh tried to round up some friends to come over for dinner. After a little relaxing, we went for a walk to pick up a few things because he planned to cook.

When we got back, his friend, Rona, came over. Spesh started making dinner. Rona talked to him while I checked my email. (No wifi, but Spesh is online 24-7). I went to the kitchen and helped cook rice and chop vegetables. It was a tofu plus veggie fry-up. Spesh started to tell me how wrong Rona was about some political issue and I said, "Her? You mean the woman who is here now?" He was surprised because he thought she'd left. And she had--but without saying goodbye to me. Odd. Or not. What do I know?

Spesh was a little unnerved because he didn't want her to overhear what he was saying. This part wasn't so bad, "We used to fight like that--until you grew out of it."

I laughed and said, "Yes, you noticed that we don't do that anymore."

"You realize I just insulted you be saying that we don't fight because you grew up."

I kept laughing and said, "Yeah, which means that you didn't grow up. You're just as immature as ever!"

Spesh chuckled but wasn't entirely pleased with my take. Perhaps he misses the fighting. (Aside: when I related this conversation to my stepmother, Susan, see was outraged and astonished that we're still friends. I told her, "I made a decision a long time ago to stop fighting with Spesh since I didn't enjoy it. And I just stopped." But Spesh met me halfway or we'd still be fighting. We cooperated.)

We got to cooking. Rona was going to come back later with Ahmed--an 11-year-old son of a friend. Spesh and I went ahead and ate and Rona came back around 9pm with Ahmed. A slight problem was that he only spoke Arabic. Rona mostly talked to him, Spesh a little and me, well, I just smiled.

Earlier, Spesh had asked me, what you do with an 11-year-old kid? I suggested the movies, but that's my default for everyone. Spesh thought that was a good idea and had mentioned it to Rona on her first visit.

When Rona came back with Ahmed, they said they were going to the movies. Spesh said, "Wanna go? I'll make your bed and we'll be home later."

"What? You're going off to the movies without me? No, I'm coming."

Spesh looked shocked. "I thought you were tired. I asked you to come but I was joking."

"I'm tired but so what? You're not going off and leaving me here all alone! Maybe I'll fall asleep in the movie, but I'm going. It was my idea!" Of course it wasn't my idea to take an 11-year-old out at 9:30 at night. (Note: the 11-year-old turned out to be 14, so keeping him out late wasn't so bad.)

We hopped in the (borrowed) car and drove to the movie district. But everything was closed, due to a big deal Jewish holiday, Tishah ba'Av. I said, "I think it's a holiday today--you know, the one about the destruction of the Temple?" I only knew about it because Mom had told me right before I left (I've never celebrated it--it's one of many the Reform movement dropped). I said, "It's funny that you needed me here to tell you it was Tishah ba'Av!"

"Oh, we would have figured it out. It's probably in the paper."

"Okaaay." In true Spesh fashion, the next day, he told the story of our failed attempt to see a movie in these words, "…and Jamy had to tell us it was Tishah ba'Av!"

So, no movies for us. We went to the beach instead. We had a hard time parking, so Rona, Ahmed and I left Spesh to drive around and we walked down the beach. We sat at an informal but pricey café--chairs right in the sand and tall, red triangular lights-- that from a distance looked like red sails. When Spesh caught up with us, he observed, "Everyone here is on a date."

I said, "Jealous?"

It was so pleasant that we didn't want to leave. Spesh said, "I don't know why I don't come to the beach more often." I was falling asleep in my chair so we did leave and I'd say we got home around 11:30pm. I slept hard until noisy construction / garbage collection woke me around 6:30. I managed to go back to sleep for another couple of hours. It was physically hard to lift myself out of bed even though I was too awake to go back to sleep. When I got up, Spesh was on the computer, just as he had been when I fell asleep. He made some tea and I sat and drank it. First I sat on the sofa, then I lay down on the sofa and before I knew it, I was asleep again, but only for about an hour. Spesh made us some breakfast while I took a shower. Breakfast: bread (baguette), super rich yogurt (27% fat!), olives and tomatoes in olive oil. Yum.

We went out around noon in a misguided attempt to renew Spesh's Canadian passport. Our mission was aborted because we didn't have the proper paperwork. Instead, we parked and walked to a coffee shop. I'd mentioned that coffee was a good idea. I was feeling tingly and dreamy and a good shot of caffeine was on order.

We walked through a part of Tel Aviv I remembered from my last visit. Spesh said, "This is one of my favorite parts of town." We sat in a corner window of a café. He said, "Do you like it?"

I said, "I love it. I can see the whole world from here." One by one, Spesh's friends came by. We were five at a table of four in the end. By the way, all of Spesh's friends I've met so far are women. I mentioned that to him over breakfast. "Why don't you have any guy friends?"

"Why? Women are more beautiful, more social, more fun to be with."

"Heh. Nice."

One of the women in the café was Adar, his most recent ex. She was friendly towards me and it was nice to see a familiar face. They were all talking politics and she was the only one who apologized, though I didn't mind at all. She made the unfortunate suggestion that they should do their business in Hebrew. I said, "Oh no, that would be much worse."

Spesh said, "No, Jamy should listen, she can help." I couldn’t, but appreciated the thought.

Just before 2pm it was time to go meet Gal, another friend, for lunch--again, someone who I met last year. I was happy to see her too. I think I talked rather too much at lunch about not very important things (professional vs. college sports, US housing segregation), but Gal asked me questions and got me going. I guess she knows the trick to making friends: asking questions.

After a lunch of hummus--an entire plateful each--we went back to Spesh's with just enough time to get ready to catch a bus to Jerusalem. The plan was to go to a demonstration in the center of town for housing rights. After, I would catch a taxi to my brother's house, where Dad and Susan were having dinner. (The Israeli family was fasting for Tisha ba'Av, this was their break-the-fast meal.)

The demo was like every other demo I've ever been to, in a good way. Spesh pulled my rolling suitcase (the only inconvenience of our plan) and I took pictures. He mingled around and paid a little less attention to me than I would have liked. It was an interesting and motley coalition, which Spesh loved.

Spesh pointed a guy out to me who was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Stalin. I said, "Is he for real?"

"I think so." We shook our heads and laughed. The Stalinist was handing out his manifesto on single sheets of paper. I took one but since it was all Hebrew (except the email address), I couldn't read it.

We rallied, we marched, and when we arrived at the Prime Minister's house, Spesh got me a taxi and I went off to Orthodox world.

The taxi took me to the right street but I wandered a little before finding the right door. When I did, everyone, with the exception of my brother, B2, was sitting at the table eating dinner. (B1 is coming but he won't arrive until Wednesday.) I was greeted warmly and gave a hug and kiss to everyone. I sat down and started to eat. I realized, I hadn't had a bite since lunch at 2pm--it was now 8:30. That's a long time for me to go without even a snack. Yet, I wasn't starving--I can't explain it.

I sat near Adina, the second oldest girl, and the next in line to get married. Is it wrong to say I have a favorite? Probably. I'll say this, I have the most interesting conversations with Adina, though I like all the kids equally. It's Adina towards whom I feel the most sympathy. She's quiet, smart, but has her eyes wide open. She is curious in a unobtrusive way about my life. I was telling stories (too many stories!) about Spesh and I mentioned that he's published a paper and that he gave me a copy. Adina wanted to see it. Then she observed, "He must be very smart." I agreed.

The rest of the evening was the normal running around, eating and muddled attempts to make plans for the next day. After a long evening, Dad drove us to our place in Jerusalem. It's nice but not as nice as the last place. It'll do. I had a hard time falling asleep--the second day was harder--but I felt better adjusted.

Grateful for: friends and family.

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