Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blown Breakers

Last night I stayed up in the Thai Village. It's near Kfar Blum, and basically a bunch of cabins with a pseudo-Thai theme and a Thai restaurant. It was raining last night and everything was really muddy. This place doesn't have a paved road in site. Most are gravel and the walkways that exist from the road to the cabins are very unevenly spaced paving stones.

I got into my cabin, turned on the lights, turned on the heat, and started some hot water for tea. Two minutes later, the power goes out and an emergency light goes on. I put my muddy shoes back on, go outside, and find out that it is only my cabin that is without power. Because I left my car key inside, I cannot get to the flashlight I have in the back seat.

I come back inside, take off my muddy shoes, and look for but do not see any obvious circuit breaker box. I call the main reception desk. No one answers. I put my shoes back on, get to the car (remember, there are only ill-spaced pavers between me and my car) and drive over to the other side of the Village. [why drive? a) it's raining. b) there is no bridge over the Jordan river and c) it's a long walk in the middle of the night in the rain.

I park my car in a huge puddle (the only place to park) and make my way to the restaurant. It's basically closed, and there are only Thai women there cleaning up. I try to explain that I have no electricity. The woman asks me if I need a remote control for my television. I said, "I have no lights or heat - I have no electricity". She gets someone else who can understand me.

The next woman says, "Why didn't you tell Casey?" A) I have no idea who Casey is and B) I have no idea where I would find Casey if I knew he existed. She calls Casey who agrees to meet me at my cabin. On a side note - seeing Thai women speak Hebrew is weird. I take Casey's number in case there is some problem since I'm not so excited by all the rain and mud and driving. And by the way, it's late.

I drive back to the other side of the Village and find my cabin door open and a man standing on a chair looking at the breaker box I hadn't found earlier. He flips a switch, and then says, "I'll be back." I was grateful that he didn't also say "Come with me if you want to live."

And my flashlight was still in the car....

Talk Radio, the Ocean, and Free Candles at the Coffee Shop

I'm sitting in my hotel in Netanya. I moved the desk so I can look through the floor to ceiling windows as I work. I'm probably not quite as productive as I would be if there wasn't a very blue Mediterranean Sea crashing along the beach 50 yards away, but there didn't seem to be a point in having my back to the view. Two things would make this a much better situation: clean windows and some fresh air. It's very windy, so the fresh air might get old quickly in terms of noise, but it would be better than stale air. Even so, it's all pretty spectacular.

I drove here this morning from a place across the road from Kiryat Shemona. That's less relevant than the fact that it's hard to find a decent radio station. And what I did find was talk radio. I hate talk radio - it doesn't matter what language it's in. If I don't agree with the callers, there seems to be no point in wasting my time listening to them. And if I do agree with them, there's also no point to listening. Thankfully, I have three new CDs to listen to and I can't wait to load them on to my ipod. (Thanks, Esther!)

I stopped on the way at a coffeeshop to get some work done since I had no internet access at our last hotel. I ordered some coffee and sat at a table as far away from the smokers as I could be. The problem - there was no outlet nearby. So I had about 90 minutes on my computer. Just as I started to close everything up, the guy behind the counter gave me a scented candle. That's a new one for me. He also gave it to the guys behind me who looked like truck drivers (and who looked like they had never seen a vanilla-scented candle) and the older couple behind them. Maybe I should stop there more often.

It's been raining the last few days. It's good for the farmers and the Kinneret and muddy for everyone else. Really muddy. My car is filthy as are many of my clothes. Oh well.

I was in Tzfat yesterday. There's a well-known candle factory there that evidently had a fire. I heard they lost their entire inventory. I'm not sure whether it would have been better to lose everything by other means or not....

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Ok - so this should have come before the last post. You'll get the idea. I tried to send it on Wednesday night but it just saved and wouldn't post. I think it's all working now....

I was sitting on Wednesday night (aka Christmas Eve) at the Atlanta airport and learned that Terminal E has free wireless. The other terminals do not - so for any of you who fly and carry your laptops and have a layover and want to check you email, head to Terminal E. In Terminal C, where I landed, there was great Christmas music playing. Terminal E - nothing. If I hadn't been so tired, I'd have taken the little train back.

Seen: one Israeli woman wearing a lime green velour track suit. Lime green. Velour. Lime green. She may have been comfortable, but it was not a nice cut for her and less flattering than she realizes. I know that I tend to let people know when their slip is showing or their fly is down, but this situation was way beyond my abilities.

Seen: One clearly Jewish mother and two tween girls. The mother was dressed in a longer skirt and sweater. The two girls were wearing skirts and tops AND tights that had multi-colored horizontal stripes on them, and really, really ugly shoes. And the horizontal-striped tights weren’t two or three or four repeating colors – oh no. There were at least 9 or 10 or 11 different colors, none of which seemed to match the brown color of the skirts they were wearing. I know it’s not nice to make fun of kids – I’m blaming their mother for this one.

Seen (and on my flight): One tall blond woman (not naturally blond) who was wearing a skin-tight red dress that was quite short and quite plunging. She was also wearing 4-inch heel red leather boots and carrying a gold shiny tote bag. Oh, and she had a fedora on. I was pretty sure she'd be seated next to the most religious man on the flight, but alas, she wasn't. That would have at least made for good theater.

It seems that the majority of people traveling on Christmas Eve are either Israeli and/or Jewish, or Muslim or Hindu. Some of them might be Orthodox (Christian) but I couldn't tell that. Pretty much everyone I saw was speaking Hebrew, wearing a head scarf or appears to be Indian. The Israeli women all had that curly hair and the men all had shaved heads or are old with their shirts unbuttoned too far down. Seriously - I thought that went out in the 70s, or at least the 80s.

I believe the one exception to this was the couple who was sitting next to me for a while who prayed before eating their Panda Express combo plates. I’m not sure how that place really stays in business – and it’s definitely not food I would eat, or I want my seat-mates to eat before a long international flight! I had a bagel and peanut butter for the plane and I was lucky that I got non-peanut allergic neighbors on the plane. I wasn't looking to send anyone into anaphylactic shock. That would be bad Israel karma.

Oh, and one more thing. I think my mother will be followed my flight on NORAD like some people follow Santa Claus. She called in the afternoon to find out what airline I was flying and what time the plane left. And she double checked that I was leaving from Atlanta and not New York. I'm not sure if NORAD follows flights out of North America.... I guess she'll let us know.

A lot to write...

A lot has happened in the first several days....

I spent Shabbat Kibbutz Ginosar. It’s beautiful but it's shocking to see how low the level of the Kinneret is. The boat docks have had to add one lower extension after another so that they have access to the shores. I’m told that you can see the tops of the water pumps – if the water goes much lower, they won’t be able to pump the water at all.

It’s still Chanukah, and what I’ve learned is that latkes are not a particularly Israeli food. On the other hand, there are sufganiot everywhere.

My rental car is one of the worst I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. It actually drives fine, but that’s about all that’s ok. It’s fairly dented up (duly noted on the rental sheet) and when I closed the door yesterday, the antenna fell off. Then, I was driving two people up North with me and we realized the floor of the back seat (left side) was soaking wet as was the seat on the right side. What we didn’t know until much later, was that the trunk was also soaked along with the things that had been sitting in the trunk. Lovely.

On the other hand, I’ve had great shakshouka, which could make up for having a crappy car.

I traded in my car today, which looked even worse than when I got it. I think whatever glue they were using to hold some of the parts together was finally coming loose. But now I have a Subaru of some kind rather than the Mazda. And this car doesn't smell.

Friday, December 19, 2008


We've got a lot of snow on the ground - maybe eight inches or so, plus some serious drifting. I flew in last night before the snow began and they were already cancelling flights for this morning. Even the malls are closed this morning - a surprising thing just a few days before Christmas.

You know it's a bad snow when in addition to all of the school closings, the Milwaukee Beer Hall is closed. They just announced it on the news, which has been all snow, all the time. And it was just announced that the on and off ramps to the main highway out of the state are closed. I guess they figure they're just giving up until it stops blowing so much.

And supposedly some of what we got was thunder snow, and some may have been convection snow. It's all white to me.

Our neighbors to the East are German immigrants and keep a meticulous lawn and driveway. I’m fairly certain we’ve seen them getting snow out of the cracks in their sidewalk with a tooth brush. Seriously. Even they aren’t out yet and theirs is usually the first house clean on the whole block.

Our neighbor on the other side has a a big, powerful, envy-worthy snowblower. (I honestly don't envy her snowblower, but if I did aspire to bigger and better loud machinery, that would be the one). Even she was having trouble getting through the drifting snow. She's the only one out trying their hand on our whole block. And the snow hasn't stopped falling yet.

And then there’s us - playing a game of chicken with our downstairs neighbor for who will go out first to start shoveling, or tempting fate with our small, possibly broken snowblower....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Baltimore Police Department

I'm in Baltimore, sitting in a coffee shop with five Baltimore Police Officers sitting at the next table. They are all really big guys. Humongous guys, all in full uniform. I'm not sure what all of the things are that are attached to their belts, but there are a lot of things. They spent five minutes talking about whether the Sarge likes one of the guys or not. It was very eighth grade, with one of the other officers text messaging the Sarge to find out.

It's an inside look at how groups work. One guy is talking too much (the one who thinks the Sarge doesn't like him), one isn't talking at all and is just quietly eating his bagel, one guy who looks more senior is just sitting back chuckling most of the time etc. This could be police officers (it is), or social workers, or retail workers....