Monday, December 28, 2009

Boyz II Men in 2010

The new year is approaching! Its time to pick a theme for 2010! Everything's Fine in '09 was a wonderful mantra till I met my DJ. After that, I had so much less time for all of the other things I had said yes to, I was slightly overwhelmed. Additionally, with a girlfriend, it's not as easy to do anything and everything you want to. As I've learned this year, you actually have to consider the other person as well. How revolutionary! For my DJ, I'll gladly make that sacrifice. But that's what adults do isn't it? They consider others and don't just say "yes" to everything. They mature, they grow up, and they say "no" sometimes too. Saying "yes" to everything, while fun, isn't really a very grown up way to act. Continuing on this thought process, it may just be time to grow up. 4 days into 2010, I'll be turning 30, and won't really be a kid anymore. Thus, I can no longer agree to do to everything I want to, before thinking about what I'm actually agreeing to. Therefore, just like when I was 13, it's time for me to become a man. To paraphrase and rhyme: Boyz II Men in 2010.

"It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday." Boyz II Men, Yesterday

Everything's fine in '09 is over! It may be tough to let that mantra disappear, but it's time. The mantra, while an interesting experiment on living, isn't a way to live forever. Just ask Tiger Woods. For him, everything wasn't fine in '09. As I see myself moving forward, it's time for some things not to be fine. It's time to say goodbye, to yesterday.

Let's don't wait till the water runs dry
We might watch our whole lives pass us by
- Boyz II Men, Water Runs Dry

One of the problems with never growing up is that I risk missing out on things adults do. My fears surrounding this are substantial, and these fears are driving forces which contribute to my need to become a man. To simplify, while I have short term fears about growing up, I have much longer term fears about not growing up.

I don't want to wake up one morning and realize my whole life has past me by. I don't want to wake up alone when I'm 40. I have goals in the future, and while I'm scared of the short term sacrifices it will take to get there, I'm also scared of how hard it will be on me if I don't get there. I've observed some of my female friends who had goals at 25 (pink), 30 (wise guy), or 35 (unnamed), and haven't achieved those goals. They are freaking out. I don't want to freak out when I hit an age, like 40. I don't want too ever look back and realize, its too late to go back and do what I could have done when younger. Technically, I already do that about being a professional football player, and the feeling sucks.

"Close your eyes, make a wish.
And blow out the candlelight.
For tonight is just your night.
We're gonna celebrate, all thru the night."
Boyz II Men, Yesterday - I'll Make Love to You

I'm growing up and here are a few of the things I want to do now that I'm an adult:

Live Alone: I've previously wrote about how I'm getting "divorced" at the end of June, the latest. I removed that posting b/c some of you thought it could be insensitive. Nevertheless, it is happening. I'm not sure if I'm gonna buy, or gonna rent, but I'm gonna be gone. What will I do with the new freedom? Will I walk around naked? Will I throw more parties? Will I be lonely? Will I love it? Will I hate it? Who knows! All I do know is that I'm doing it, and It's part of growing up and being an adult.

Shoot a Gun: I wanna shoot a gun. I never have. I think it's something I want to try. I don't know if I'll like it or not. I don't know if I'll become a regular shooter or be even more for gun control. But before I fight against handgun access, I may as well try one.

Take Classes: I'm not sure what I want to take classes in. I tried Hebrew a few year ago and that didn't take. Perhaps I'll take an art class. Maybe I'll take an intense gym class that will kick my ass and get me in shape.

Invest in a Business/Idea: There's something about ownership that I love. There's something about ownership that I don't ever feel. Similar to the pride of painting a picture, or creating something from scratch, you can get that from own, starting, funding your own business. Maybe it'll be a bar, maybe it'll be a start up idea, maybe it'll just be something more simple, but I want to do this at some point. I'm so uninspired by working, when I'm not working for myself, I want to feel inspired with what I do. I want to work hard for myself. I realized this while making my grab bag gift for my office. I got my hands a little dirty and created an exo skeleton for an umbrella so you couldn't tell what it was before opening it. It took me an hour, but I felt creative, inspired and happy. I feel this way sitting in the board meetings of the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center as well, even though I still know very little about the facility. I like that feeling and I want it. I have no clue when I'll do something like this, but I want to. I want to badly.

UPDATED - 1/2/10:
I saw Up I The Air a few days ago and the thematic resemblance to this blog posting are uncanny. If I had written this posting AFTER seeing the movie w/my DJ, not only would she have thought I was unoriginal, but also she would have accused me of plagiarism. The movie's a "coming of age" piece about a middle aged guy, who refuses to make any real decisions, make any real connections, and move forward with his life. His whole life is "up in the air" until he realizes that his life is passing him by. Thus the title of the movie, thus my posting.

I meant to document some of my "accomplishments" and "successes" of Everything's Fine in '09 in the original post (yes, the quotation marks are necessary). There are plenty of things I never would have done this year that I did do b/c of the mantra. I'll just list a few:

I went to Egypt w a virtual stranger.
I became a mentor of a 14 year old Bronx student.
I ate talapia.
I ate cod.
I went to Florida
I went to Texas
I went to the Poconos
I spent 2 days building buildings in Israel - Here and Here.
I ate salad.
I ate sushi.

Oh, If you're looking for something to get me for my upcoming 3-0, HERE'S the updated list.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Q&A for Men (Who are Acting Like Women)

Questions from men, answered by a man-ish:

Q: I have been emailing with this girl for a few days that I met at a party last week. I’m not sure she’s interested and I don’t want to ask for her number and get rejected b/c we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the future due to our mutual friends. She’s not very responsive to the emails, but I believe that’s because she’s either A) busy or B) just doesn’t like email. She takes a while to respond and doesn’t really put in much effort to answer all the questions and whatnot. We got along great in person though. How can I find out w/o it getting weird?

A: Try sending an email like this: “I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, b/c you could possibly be really young, but the proper way to respond to an email is to answer all the questions asked of you, then ask a few more of your own to elicit a similar response from me Perhaps, growing up in the cell phone age, you are more accustomed to texting… if you’d like to switch to that format of communication, I believe it can be arranged.”

Feel free to end that email with “I’d be happy to oblige” or “I suppose I can acquiesce” or “I guess I can make the sacrifice” instead of the other suggested line.

If she likes you, she’ll laugh, she'll apologize and respond with a full email and she’ll send her number. If not, she’ll say she’s been really busy, but you’ll know, and it won’t be awkward going forward. At that time, you’re welcome to tease the crap out of her with “you could have told me” or “I’m pretty sure I’m your #1 priority” or something to that affect or effect.


Q: My friend has a date with a girl on a Sunday. He doesn’t know what time to make it for. Is 7:30 too early? I feel like it’s a pretty “safe” time to offer up. It’s a first date so he's nervous.

A: Is he a woman? Tell him to stop thinking too much because no girl likes a guy who cares too much before he should. I used to get nervous all the time, those girls were the ones who didn’t like me back because it was sooo obvious how much I wanted it. 7:30 is fine for a Sunday, but it can’t end before 9pm b/c she’ll get home and wonder what she’s doing the rest of the evening. He has gotta make it last until 10pm, but can’t go much past 11 b/c it’s Sunday. Perhaps, 8:15pm is the best time to be on the “safe” side.


Q: I met this girl at an event on Wednesday and on Friday a girl w/the same first name emailed the group some “spam-ish” type email. What should I respond with? I don’t even know if it’s the same girl.

A: I need background on her, your conversations with her.

Q: We were talking about how after the event she was going to break it off w/some guy she was dating. Don’t remember much else.

A: Email “Hi ####: Thanks for the mass email! (you are teasing her) Are you the Alli I met on Wednesday at the Event? If you are, then it was great to meet you and I hope the dumping of that guy went great. If you are not, then you should feel honored to be confused with such a lovely lady. Take care”


Q: How far ahead of time do you have to look if you want to buy a place?

A: Guest Response b/c I have no clue:
*3 months to close (could be less, but plan for worst)
*1 month for negotiation/acceptance of bid
*1-3 months of looking before you find a place you really like

Obviously all of these can be shorter (or longer) like if you find the place of your dreams the first apt. you go into. But otherwise, I think that is about right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More on Ex's, Bosses, and My Life

When I’ve got writing brain freeze, there’s no better way to unthaw it than a Q&A!

From OCD: How come it seems like no matter how much you feel you are over your ex, think they are actually kind of annoying, have stopped thinking about them regularly, it really really sucks when you find out they have a new girlfriend?

There are 2 reasons and they revolve around questioning yourself (confidence) and jealousy.

First we constantly question ourselves about our decisions not to be with someone. When a different girl decides she wants to be with a particular boy that you didn't want to be with, you start thinking "does she know something I don’t' know?" or "why does she fit better than I fit?" “Maybe it was me?” This is all about self confidence. When you made your decision to break up, you were confident in it. Be confident in it in the future.

The second reaction is jealousy. No matter if you dumped him or not, you still don't want anyone to be with him. You were "the one" for some period, and that should never change. It's kinda like how boys want to be with a girl who's never been with another guy before him. He's jealous over someone he never met that she dated 4 years earlier.

Oh, I forgot the 3rd reason…boys suck.


From Panhead: What is the appropriate way to ask your boss for something to do? It is always way more awkward to ask for work, than pretending to be working. But I would rather have some work to do, on these occasions that arise.

You hit the nail on the head. You absolutely do not want to walk into your boss’s office and say “do you have anything for me to work on?” That’s obviously the wrong decision.

My suggestions are 4 fold:
1) You are nuts, do not ask your boss for more work. Why would you want more work?

2) If you like the company, try to learn more about what everyone else at your level does. You don’t have to ask your boss for more work, but you can let your peers know that you have more time, or are curious about what they do and how they do it.

3) Start doing more work. If you know what your boss does with your work once it’s done, maybe do his work a few times and show him. That may get you fired for being too ambitious and stepping on others toes, but it may get you promoted for showing initiative. Instead of asking for more work, suggest that you be allowed to take your work to the next level.

4) If you don’t really like your company, enjoy the time off. Get a blackberry so you can search the web and chat and do everything you could want to do when not at work, during work. Feel free to leave the office on long walks and / or go shopping.


What the hell have you been doing and why aren’t you writing?!

I’ve gotten this question a few times, and the answer is pretty simple: I’m busy and I’m lazy. Deal with it!

Here’s what I’ve been busy doing...

New 09 Responsibilities:
I’ve already written about IMentor, Ibro, but this year, the year of “Everything’s Fine in 09,” I’ve taken on a few more responsibilities.

I’m on the board of the Young Friends of JBFCS. We’re a group that goes to all the JBFCS buildings and plays with the kids that are being housed there. Sometimes its sports, sometimes it’s a holiday party, but it’s really rewarding and fun and we’ve got a great group of people who participate.

I’m an Observer on the board of The Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in North Western Connecticut. When UJA asked me to be an observer on this board, I hardly knew anything about it. The more I learn however, the more I like it. There are all kinds of programs and spiritual retreats for youth and elderly. There’s a green program as well, where people live off the land for 3 months. If is the standard for running a “green” organization, and they are working to teach everyone else to be the same. The Center has a ton of leadership changes going on now, and it’s actually a really exciting time to be involved.

I’m on the Community Connections Board at UJA. We’re a group of 10 young professionals that had $200K to give out to 4 or 5 projects around the city. These projects are meant to facilitate communication between Jewish teens and other ethnicities in their neighborhoods in the city and slightly beyond. We are funding a modified “West Side Story” show in Washington Heights. We are funding an entrepreneurship program, where kids get to start a company in Crown Heights. There are 2 other programs as well, including one dealing with science projects too. We only meet every other month, but it’s really really interesting work, especially when we visit our projects (I’m going this week!).

Books:
The Last Lecture: A guide book to how to live your life by a terminally ill. It describes his journey to give a lecture to his students about life, and that lecture. Really touching, really good advice. I didn’t cry.

Look at the Birdie: Fantastic book by the late Kurt Vonnegut. While his books follow one really well written quirky character through a crazy story, this is a bunch of really well written short stories with many quirky characters. You jump right into each story and he doesn’t tell you much about the characters. You learn about their lot in life as you read about their trials. Of course, I posted my favorite quote (about marriage) from the book on Facebook and it got me in lotsa trouble w/my DJ and her friends. It was something like “Single people are lonely, but married people are lonely with dependants.”

Time Traveler’s Wife: This is my kinda story. Not because it’s a chick book. Not b/c it’s about time travel, and not b/c it’s well written. It’s my kinda story b/c it’s organized really well. I like how each 3-5 page chapter is a different time, a different year, and a different age of the characters. I could care less that the writing isn’t so great, that the story has loopholes that make no sense, and that the theme is supposed to be all sad and sappy when it really isn’t. What I care about is organization, b/c that’s what I’m good at. If I ever finish my book, it’ll be similar to this.

Lolita: I haven’t started this yet but it was highly recommended to me by my friend Cheryl. She said it’s “the most beautifully written book. It’s like a poem.” That could be the worst review ever for a book, except that she recommended “The Road” to me (which was awesome) and has read more books than I’ll ever read. She also said she rereads this one every few years, so that’s gotta mean something, considering the only books I’ve reread are Harry Potter books.

TV Shows:
I’m in full TV swing here this fall, and I’m actually keeping up. I tried to get into Mad Men, but don’t seem to have the time. However, I am keeping up with The Office, Project Runway, Grey’s Anatomy, and How I Met Your Mother. Grey’s is still terrible but the rest are just fantastic! Of course, Sunday’s, I’m watching football. Come January, I’ll have much more time. (Even December the way my teams are playing this year).

Hanging w/my DJ:
I’m giving it a shot. Ya know…for real. Personally, I believe there is absolutely a reason that the word “COMMITTED” can mean both in a relationship, and institutionalized. That won’t stop me from trying to be one, without becoming the other! Of course, I can’t speak for my DJ. She’s got no problem with one, though sometimes, like all girls, I think she needs the other.  Anyway, I’ve met most of her friends, I’ve met her parents, I’ve met her grandma, I’ve met one of 4 siblings and, most importantly, they all think I’m Ok. I think.

Planning my Birthday:
I’m not going to post too much about the planning process because I’m likely going to post a ton about it afterwards. However, I’ve booked a house in Puerto Rico, got a flight, invited most of my friends and family and am ready for Shenanigans. If only everyone else would book their flights!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sup Ibro?

I met my mentee, Ibrahima (Ibro) on Saturday. He seemed like a really nice, smart, shy kid. Obviously, there's plenty to work on before we turn him into Ben 2.0. Saturday's meeting consisted of various ice breakers and whatnot, and we'll be meeting 3 more times over the next 5 weeks in order to build a closer bond (puke). After that, we'll likely be communicating by email, and meeting once every month or so. Here's the first email I sent him.

Hello Ibrahima:

My name is Ben and I’m a 29 year old that works in the world of finance. I live near Union Square in Manhattan and work on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Thank you for emailing me and don’t worry about not being able to finish in time. I am sure next time you will finish. I also played football in high school! I’m sure there is a ton of stuff we can talk about in that subject! This is my first time being a mentor and I’m very excited about the opportunity to get to know you and I’m also a little nervous because I have never done anything like this before. I’m sure it will work out great. Hopefully this year, as we get to know one another, we’ll be able to share fun stories and learn from each other.

Imentor has given me some sentences to finish. Some are pretty silly but here is my best try. 1. The one word that best describes me is “stable.” I don’t let many things upset me but I also don’t get overly excited about things. This is both good and bad, but my friends rely on me to always be the same for them.
2. If I could travel to anywhere in the world it would be “Argentina.” I love steak, do you? Everyone who goes to Argentina and Brazil tells me that you can get steak everywhere, and it’s not expensive, and it’s the best they have ever had! Hopefully, I can go sometime soon.
3. My number one dream for my future is “building my own family.” I have two sisters and both are married but I’m still single! They are looking to make our family bigger while I work all day and so I really want to find someone that I actually like!
4. My most prized possession is “my cell phone!” I take my phone everywhere and constantly use it. If I ever lost it or if it broke I would run to the Verizon store to get another one!
5. My favorite movie or CD is… I have many favorite movies. I’m sure you do too. My favorites are probably Jerry McGuire, Apollo 13, The Matrix movies and the Borne Identity movies.
6. My greatest accomplishment in my life so far is still to come. While I’ve done many good things, I don’t think I’ve tried that hard or wanted something bad enough to be proud of getting it. The biggest accomplishments are those that you want the most, and then achieve. I still have to find one of those.
7. My family would describe me as “young.” I like to act like I’m a kid sometimes. I’m always looking to find the “fun” in any activity.
8. My greatest fear is “falling from heights.” I’m not scared of heights. I don’t have any problem being in a high building or on an airplane, but I don’t like looking over the edge of buildings or mountains. I have a fear of falling! Have you ever been on an airplane?
9. During my free time (outside of school or work), my favorite activity is “playing volleyball.” I played volleyball in college and though I’m not as good as I used to be, I still play once a week in a league.
10. If I could change one thing in the world today, I would change selfishness in professional sports. I look at athletes and agents and coaches and owners and it just seems like everyone is in it for the money and for themselves. I play sports for fun and to win and because its good exercise and because I love competition, and not for money. I wish everyone played that way.

Thanks again for messaging and hopefully I’ll hear from you soon. I think we will be meeting this Saturday at your school. Will you be there?

Have a good week,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Insurance Solution

Insurance, at its core, is based on communism. It is a collective in which each participant pays the same amount and those who need it are helped. The "lucky" participants are those who pay more than they get back, they are healthy(health insurance) and alive(life insurance). There is very little social rationale for health insurance companies to be for-profit, and for non-mutual life insurance companies. These companies' business models inherently contradict the collective rationale for actually having insurance, since they want to deny coverage for those who need it (or risk needing it in the future). Insurance companies as businesses are not failures except that their progress and success directly contradicts our societal goals of a healthy populous. It therefore becomes obvious that we need to extend this basic government services to the most vulnerable segments of society, since it is under provided by the free market.

This is not dissimilar to the extra USF charges we see on our phone bills. Those charges help pay for the rural and thus unprofitable segments of our society to have basic phone service. Phone companies would never pay $100K to extend a phone like 4 miles up a road to 1 person who would pay them $30/month, but they are required to by law, and thus we subsidize. Perhaps the solution is not a public option, but an option that does not allow for denial of coverage, that is subsidized by a small tax on everyone else. Of course, that is exactly what insurance is, everyone who’s healthy and alive subsidizing those who aren’t, so why do we need these companies at all?

To implement this, we need federal regulation with states out of the picture. 1) Competition will increase because not every insurance company is in every state. 2) Maximum premiums will be regulated, to make sure everyone can afford the insurance. 3) High risk individuals, which insurance companies would deem “unprofitable” and would likely not have insured, will be subsidized by the government to the point that the actuarial assumptions used by these companies would render them profitable to take on as customers as well.

We will not need a "new" government run health plan for the uninsured and uninsurable (a new medicare), but we'll have a regulated, outsourced, and subsidized healthcare plan, which will increase competition among insurers but also increase the pie for them to make money.

And if some people still choose not to have a phone line in their house, that’s their own damn problem.

PS - I plan on editing this numerous times before its perfect.... then maybe a NYT editorial submission...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Israel Summarized

For quick reference, here are all of the parts of my trip:

Israel Part 1: I Can’t Stand El Al / Rules for Flying
Israel Part 2: Friday in Tel Aviv / Rules for Eating
Israel Part 3: Saturday in Tel Aviv / Rules for Tanning
Israel Part 4: Sunday in Tel Aviv Haifa / Rules for clothing shopping, The Fate Method
Israel Part 5: Monday in Haifa / Rules for Hangin w/Your Family:
Israel Part 6: Tuesday - Wedding / Rules for learning a New Language, Part 1
Israel Part 7: Wednesday in Ayalim / Rules for Building a Mud Hut
Israel Part 8: Thursday in Ayalim / Rules for Learning a New Language, Part 2
Israel Part 9-12: Friday - Sunday in Hefzi Ba / Flight Home

And here are the pictures:

ISRAEL PICTURES

And here is a summary of my trip, using numbers to remember:

1 – Movies I watched during 22 hours of airplane flights
2 – Times I ate pork on the first 2 days
3 – Time I upset Elana by not wanting to play with her kids constantly, or during meal time.
4 – Times I apologized unsuccessfully for not wanting to hang out with Elana and/or her kids, all the time, or during meal time.
5 – New FB friends I have from the Negev, we’ll see if any become real friends
6 – Days I went shopping (Friday, Saturday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday)
7 – Days I went to the beach or pool (excluding Desert as beach)
8 – Dinner’s, out of 9, in which I overate (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday)
9 –Nights I drank moderately including wine on the flights (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

And here are some things Atara has said really loudly so that the people she’s talking about definitely heard her:

- About an Asian woman – “Why does that woman have slanted eyes?”
- About a guy with a pony tail – “Why does that woman have a beard?”
- About a guy in a wheel chair – “Oh no! A monster!”
- About a really fat woman – “That woman is so fat!”
- About a boy in her swim class – “Daddy, that boy’s vagina looks weird.” So Daddy responds, “That’s his penis.” And Atara again, “Daddy, you don’t have a penis.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Israel: Part 9, 10, 11 & 12

Ok, I got lazy from writing all of these posts and I’m going to condense them into one… Hopefully this won’t be too painful for all of you.

Part 9: Friday (Hefzi Ba):

Friday morning, after breakfast, Lori, Elana and I ditched the rest of our family and went shopping at the mall in Afula. I purchased a few things, including a shirt I had just purchased in a different color in Haifa. (I decided to give the first one to my dad). We got some chocolates at the supermarket, which, a month later, I still haven’t delivered to everyone I purchased for. I searched for a few things for my DJ, and her sister, and Gillian but couldn’t find anything but postcards. The kiddies went to play with the horses, and went to the kangaroo zoo. There are only two kosher McDonalds’ in Israel, and one happens to be 15 minutes from my aunt’s kibbutz in Bet Shean. Thus, stopping there for the kosher people is necessary every time we go, though it really isn’t anything special. We hit Kosher McDonalds after shopping, while Mr. Horsham and I texted to meet there at the same time. D&D had ditched the family (similar to my ditching) for Thursday to enjoy a day at a lil B&B or something like that. At McDonalds, dad and Karen were there w/the kiddies, had just finished eating, and thus took our chocolate so it wouldn’t melt in the car. Back at the kibbutz, we headed up to the pool for a quick swim before sunset. Eli cooked excellent dinner which I apparently criticized by putting salt on the potatoes. I won’t do that again. Dinner was followed by chillin on the back porch, with some after dinner drinks and cigars.

Part 10: Saturday (Hefzi Ba):

Saturday morning, after breakfast, we walked to the cow farm and watched the machines work their magic. Atara and Lilah, scared as hell as first, eventually got comfortable with the machines, and the animals, though I don’t know how anyone could get comfortable with the smell. My grandfather (Saba), and his girlfriend came to the kibbutz for the day to hang out with all of us one lsat time before heading back to NY on Sunday. We all ate lunch together, but after lunch, something strange happened. I was sitting on the couch, listening to 4 simultaneous conversations go on with 10 people all around me, and all of a sudden, I’m sleeping. My mouth is apparently so wide open that my siblings are contemplating filling it with some sort of garbage or food. An hour passes without me waking once before everyone’s getting ready to head back up to the pool. We swim for an hour and I make it the full length under water. I don’t know why, but considering A) I don’t swim often at all, and B) I don’t old my breath often at all, this is one of the highlights of the trip for me. Saba and his lady go home and the rest of the family (Lori, Maureen, My Aunt & Uncle, My Parents, My Sisters and the 2 kids) all go to dinner at the Fish Restaurant on the Kibbutz. I have chicken.

Part 11: Sunday (Hefzi Ba/Afula/Driving):

My parents’ flight is at 3pm but ours isn’t until 8pm so we split with them, take 2 cars and the “kids” head back to Afula for shopping and whatnot. I’m pseudo “Ariel” today as he went back to the states Tuesday night because he had a 9am class to teach Wednesday morning. First, we all go to the restaurant Maureen works at (Vanill) for a little lunch snack and then D&D split to head to Tel Aviv for a little shopping. Instead of shopping there, they north of the city, saving time and avoiding traffic. Elana & I go into downtown Afula with the kids to do some window shopping and hopefully, 4 hours before our flight, find something for the DJ, her sister, and Gillian. An hour later, after one last stop and ice cream for the kiddies, I’ve got everything I need and Elana’s got a hat. We drive to Ariel’s Aunt & Uncle’s place just outside the airport to drop off the cell phone we borrowed and try to fill the car with gas in the area. We had more problems filling the car than I could have imagined. Apparently, my credit cards only allowed for 200 shekels ($50) of gas max per card for the whole trip. So I ended up using 3 different cards while away, and had to call customer service to verify charges when I landed.

Part 12: Sunday Night (Flight home):

It’s amazing how much easier it was getting through security with 6 young people including 2 toddlers vs. going alone. They didn’t even ask if we had accepted packages from other and if we had packed our bags ourselves. The strangest thing about an 11 hour flight home that takes off at 8pm is that you’re on a night flight, but you land and it’s still night for 6 more hours. To illustrate, we take off at 8pm, its dark, we fly 11 hours and 7 time zones so its midnight when we land in NYC. Then the sun rises 6 hours later. I’m so glad I don’t live in Norway during the winter because I couldn’t hand 17 hours of darkness in a day, that’s way too much. We had 6 seats together, 2 rows of 3, but the kids were fine, and the flight went well. We played some cards, we watched some movies, I finished Pablo, and we discussed who would commit suicide first if the plane crashed; my rents or Ariel. Don’t worry, we knocked on wood (as I’m also doing right now). I also slept a little because my awesome baby sister gave me the window seat for 4 hours. Thanks Panhead.

Final thoughts tomorrow…

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Israel: Part 8

Thursday (Ayalim / Hefzi Ba):

We woke up at 5:30 am as light was just peeking above the horizon and the sun wasn’t anywhere near coming up. The morning was chilly and I lay in my sleeping bag for 10 minutes checking my emails/texts and responding to those messages. To my surprise, my friends started responding promptly and I realized that it was only 10:30pm in NY, and they were still hours from going to bed. At breakfast a 9 year old girl asked me something unrecognizable in Hebrew and I responded by saying that I don’t speak Hebrew, in Hebrew, using the feminine version. The little girl started laughing at me and publicly humiliated me in front of everyone. I mean, if I’m going to say “I don’t speak Hebrew,” in Hebrew, I think it’s ok if I screw it up. I told her to go fuck herself, but said it w/a smile so she had no idea what I was saying. All of the other people in Ayalim were horrified. Yes, I was shown up by a 9 year old. (and yes, I’m joking about “go fuck yourself”)

Being that this was the last day, everyone slowly started in the morning and I took pictures of the sunrise over the desert and made Tsruya take a picture of me w/my hands covered in mud. It’s not surprising that for the 2 days I’m away from camera crazy family, mine is charging at Lori’s apartment. Therefore, all pictures were on my phone. There was another 15 minute speech at 6am, and I didn't even bother asking for a translation, though I think all of the non generic jobs (like water girl and molding) were assigned. We worked in mud till 9, paused for 30 minutes to wash our hands and have some more food, then worked till 12:30 before eating lunch. The 9 year old and I made up, because I like kids that aren’t mine, and we played in the mud together during the day. Some of the kids showered, some packed, and all of us waited for at least 45 minutes before the bus to Beer Sheba came. While the bus ride was only 30 minutes, I slept for 29. Everyone made their way to another bus, or to a cab, or to a train, or to hitchhike the rest of the way home for Shabbat. They were exhausted, drained, tired, sick of being dirty, and wanted to relax. You can imagine their surprise when I stood before the group and asked “Where’s the mall, I gotta do some shopping!” Lori was meeting me at the mall before we drove 2 hours north to Hefzi Ba, and while I waited, I had some french fries and ice cream...fantastic.

Lori and I stopped at Barbi’s friends’ house to drop off a gift for their new kid. I called ahead and the husband answered, told us the address in Beer Sheba, but his wife hadn’t told him to expect us, so he was a bit confused. He lived on Ben Yehuda, a somewhat obscure street in Beer Sheba but a big street in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When I said I knew where it was, he figured I was in the wrong city. He was surprised when rang his doorbell 10 minutes later. He was very surprised when he and Lori recognized each other from classes. We got to see their cute newborn kid and they gave us some pictures to bring back to Barbi. We arrived back at Hefzi Ba just as everyone was leaving to go to Afula for dinner. Golani falafel of course. My family single handily supports this place for a month during the few days we are in Israel. I always support the pizza place next door. After dinner, we got home and passed out, quite dehydrated.

Rules to Learning a New Language Part 2: So You Don’t Get Teased by a Nine Year Old: (I know I did this already, but I'm going to reiterate so everyone understands these rules. On both days my shortcomings were exploited and became apparent, so I'm writing it again. Bite me if you're upset). Start learning before you turn 6 and keep going until you are 10. Since you can’t make those decisions on your own, I blame my parents for my lack of bilingual abilities. Somehow, my grandfather speaks 7 languages without much problem, I guess that language learning isn’t genetic. I’ve decided that my best bet is to learn vocabulary and try to understand. I don’t need to learn to read well, or write, or speak even (you can always respond in English). Thus, if I learn the vocabulary, I can understand and respond in English. Who wants to conjugate verbs, put words in the right order, and figure out what gender to use for adjectives and nouns and adverbs. That’s my plan and I’ve got the Rosetta Stone DVD’s to help. I may as well use them. (Actually, I have all 27 languages of Rosetta Stone on DVD, if anyone wants to borrow)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Israel: Part 7

Wednesday (Ayalim):

Four hours after passing out, Lori and I wake up at 6:30am. She’s going to work, her last day of work, while I’m heading to Ayalim. I have no clue where it is, or where to go when I get there, but I do have a phone number to call. Luckily, and somewhat miraculously, Lori knows exactly where to go, and when I get there, I call the number, and someone calls another number, and someone walks out of a trailer to greet me. Danny introduces me to a few people, puts my stuff in a room, and asks if I’m ready to begin. He introduces me to Omer, whose arms are covered in mud and say’s I’ll be working with him through lunch. Omer sticks out his hand to shake mine, I pause briefly and say to myself “GAME ON” and grab his mud covered hand in a firm shake. For the next 2 hours, I’m dunking my hands into buckets of mud, and plastering mud mixture 2 onto an outer wall with Omer, Liat and Michal. The purpose of Ayalim is to gentrify the unused land, building houses for people who don’t have any, and also providing housing and scholarships for students who need them. The students build these houses while at school and there are Ayalim campuses all over Israel. At this time, since school had not started, all of the volunteers were at this one location. We were building a large mud building for birthright and other volunteers to come and help out for a few days at a time. I thanked g-d at 9am when breakfast was called because I hadn’t eaten, knew these kids had, and was thinking that I wouldn’t eat until 1pm. After breakfast I met Mor, the water fascist, who pretty much made sure all 70 kids stayed hydrated. Michal, Liat and I moved inside to keep cooler and start a new “wall” project. I spoke English with them to keep from their extreme boredom. Apparently, when you’ve been playing in mud for 5 days, as they had, you create a considerable amount of inside jokes that weren’t really funny to outsiders. I filled the time with stories about my rules, stories about how sarcasm has a tough time overcoming language barriers and of course, WHAT I WAS ACTUALLY DOING THERE. "Where are you from? How did you hear about Ayalim? Are you a student? How long are you in Israel for?" I must have gotten these questions 20 times during my two days at Ayalim. The answer to “Where are you from?” started as “I’m from New York” and changed to “New York City” before finally morphing into “Manhattan.” The biggest shock to most was when I said I was in Israel until Sunday… they at least expected I was there for a few months if I was doing something like playing in mud.

Lunch was surprisingly good, with pita and breads and lunch meats and humus. Unfortunately, as much as they push drinks on you during the day, there was almost nothing to drink during meal times. At lunch, I discovered that there were 2 groups of people at Ayalim, half were kids who just graduated HS and wanted to take a year off volunteering before they entered the army, and half were students in college, who’d finished the army and were volunteering so that Ayalim would pay for their educations. I was the only person who wasn’t in either of these two groups, and I was 3 years older than the older kids. The “teens” slept in the “tent” which was a tennis court sized mud hut w/canvas walls and a straw roof, while the rest were scattered around in various sleeping arrangements, including platforms with no coverings at all. This is where I chose to sleep, under the stars and armed with only a sleeping bag my aunt gave me. While this would seem to be a tough decision, after lunch every day the kids were given a break from working until 4pm, so that no one was in the dessert sun when it was hottest, and I ventured into the kids tent to read. It was a bit of a mad house w/music and smoking and silliness and I realized quite quickly that I didn’t really fit in there. I was ready to get back to work well before our “nap time” was over because A) I started 2 hours after everyone else and B) I had not been there for 4 days. Considering my finger nails were absolutely destroyed by small pieces of straw pushing under them a little further each time I dug my hand into the mud bucket (I wish I had a picture), I was looking for a way out of mudwork in the afternoon. Luckily, one of the older guys pulled me aside and we built window sills in most of the windows of the mud building. I was much better at woodwork and construction than mudwork, so I ditched the ladies and spent the evening building a coffin sized container with double doors for storage.

Dinner was yummy as well, and after scrubbing my hands for 15 minutes, and showering in an outdoor shower of sorts, I had hot dogs and chicken and humus and pita (but no dessert). The founder of Ayalim, who every girl swooned over, gave his second 15 minute speech of the day. When I asked someone to translate for me, she said “we’re up at 5:15 for 5:30 breakfast and done at 1. There will be a bus then to take us to Beer Sheba.” Somehow, in 13 seconds, she translated 15 minutes of talk. I learned later that much of it was political about populating the land and crap like that. Of course, I had to pretend like I was listening (This is a skill I have yet to master). After dinner, since there really weren’t lights in the whole complex, we hung out in our respective platforms where everyone checked Facebook from my blackberry, and went to bed around 11.

Rules for Building a Mud Hut: After the wood frame is completed, start with hay bales for the walls, stacked one on top of the other and cover them with mud mixture 1 (a sloppy mud that will fill into the hay bales pretty easily, filling the cracks. To make this mud, you need to sift through drums filled w/mud (and water to keep it wets) so that there are no rocks in the mud and bring it to the mud mixers. The mud mixers make the mud solutions when these buckets of mud are pored into their bins and they mix it all up with their feet. When that dries, you move to mud solution 2, which is heavier and thicker and has straw mixed into it. Don’t forget to wet mixture 1 before you apply 2 so they stick together. As you finish an area, put a light coating of water on it and smooth the mud. This will show you the areas you missed, will make the wall look nicer, and the next layer will stick better. HERE is part of the wall I worked on (top half), after mud solution 2 was applied. I didn't stick around for mud solution 3, but I'm sure it was fantastic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Israel Part 6 (but really part 5)

I skipped a day... going backwards and posting...

Monday (Haifa):
We woke up Monday and all traveled to Haifa’s beach, including my grandfather. Took 2 cars and spent 15 minutes trying to find eachother down there. I’d done so much beaching already, I didn’t even bother putting on my bathing suit. After a few hours, which were spent reading, we went to the mall for lunch and shopping. I spent more money shopping for clothes at the mall than I had in the 1.5 years in the states since the last time I was in Israel. There was a nap, there was dinner at the kosher Chinese restaurant in the hotel lobby, and there was another bday celebration for my mom. Luckily, we didn’t have to reread our “S my name is Sherry” poem again, but I did overeat again. Maureen, Eli and Karen joined as did Ruthy and Itzik. The kids all played ginasta in the lobby afterwards and Steiny stayed up until 4:30 am in order to watch the first half of the Ravens vs Jets PRESEASON GAME. I was going to join him, but then I found out the game started at 3 instead of the original 2am time.

Rules for hanging out with your family: Deep breaths. Wait for all options to be discussed and vetted by everyone, and then respond with which of them you’d like to do. Solve their problems with logistics only if you’ve been listening from the beginning to the end of the conversation and are 100% sure your idea will work. As corny as your dad’s jokes with the waitress are, let him enjoy them, and enjoy the fact that the language barrier makes her unable to understand them. As annoying as your mother’s questions about things you can answer are asked to the wrong people are, let her ask them, there’s a slight chance the random taxi driver does know the train schedule. When your sister is playing dumb after you asked a simple question, just respond with simple answers. (think Passover’s 4 sons). And lastly, when your other sister berates you publicly for not wanting to spend every minute w/your nieces, especially during meals, just apologize.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Israel: Part 5

Tuesday (The Wedding):

Not that I had anything I wanted to do, besides sit and relax and avoid the August heat, but it really is nice to get away from the family sometimes. With my family, we spent so much time figuring out what to do, and how the logistics will work, that it seems like we don’t do very much. We’re almost too big. While with Elana, she mentioned that when it was just her and Ariel and the kids for the first 3 days of the trip, it was actually easier and less stressful than when she got “help.” I’m not surprised. I yearned for Wednesday and Thursday when I’d have a break from the family. Of course, since I had no idea what I’d be doing, I was pretty damn scared. To build on that point, 2 days before I was to arrive at Ayalim for 2 days of “construction,” I received an email “You don’t need to bring anything, just show up when you can. We wake and start working at 6am. Bring a sleeping bag.” Glad they told me about that last bit 2 days ahead of time.

I took the train to Bet Yehoshua to meet Nadine for the day. She lives in Netanya and is my cousin’s cousin, but I guess we became friends 5 years ago. We went to lunch and then to Poleg beach, which is supposedly one of the nicest beaches in Israel. I really can’t contradict that statement. We didn’t take any pictures, which is likely because the last 5 times we’ve hung out (mostly in NY when she’s on vacation) it’s always for lunch during the day. After the beach I took the train to Tel Aviv, and then a cab to Savion, where my family had driven and were staying for the next 2 days. The Wedding, 2 hours later, was fantastic. However, we did get “lost” on the way there, to the point that we took the same circle 4 times. There were close to 700 people, in all types of formal wear. Some people were wearing jeans, some were wearing shorts, some were dressed up. The bride was in a white gown while the groom was wearing a suit. The wedding didn’t fit to any sort American customs, but was focused on having fun. This means, there was tons of dancing, and music and happiness. The bride and groom where danced up and down the isle by their friends and a drummer and shofar blower, and during the festivities that followed, they seemed to do what they wanted to do, which meant a lot more dancing and drinking! With 700 people, you’re not going to waste your time thanking everyone or talking to everyone.

Unfortunately, I was forced to sit through two, 5 minute speeches and two 8 minute videos where I had no idea what was going on. I gotta learn this language already! After doing shots and dancing for a few hours, Lori and I left around 1am to head to Beer Sheba, where she lives. I must have explained to 15 people that I wouldn’t be at dinner the following night w/the rest of my family because I’d be volunteering…though I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d be doing.

Rules for Learning a New Language Part 1: Do it while you are 3-6 years old or don't do it at all. It's freaking impossible now that I'm 29. My grandfather somehow knows 7 languages, and I'm stuck with 1.5, ascribing a 0.35 to my spanish and a 0.15 to my Hebrew. Actually, I'm probably a 1.3, with 0.25 and 0.05 respectively. I have taken the courses, I have the Rosetta Stone DVD’s, but nothing sinks in for more than a few hours. I’m thinking that I just want to learn vocabulary words so I know what people are talking about. I'll respond in English and I can stop trying to learn how to put the words the right order, or conjugate them, or make the masculine noun match with the masculine adjective, match with the masculine verb or whatever.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Israel: Part 4

Sunday (Tel Aviv/Haifa):

Sunday morning Elana, Ariel and the nieces show up at breakfast. They’d been celebrating Shabbat just outside of Tel Aviv, and had been in Israel for almost a week already. They head to the beach for an hour while I go “shopping” for an hour in the port. While I found some things I liked, the “Fate Method” for shopping yielded no results, and thus I walked back to the beach empty handed. Ariel, my mom and I all jumped into a cab to the train station while my sister prepared to drive to Haifa. Five minutes into our journey we are heading back to the hotel to give Elana the car keys. OOPS. The train ride was so easy and peaceful and cheap compared to NJ transit/LIRR, that I was surprised more Israeli’s didn’t use the train system (or even know how). While I tried to read Pablo, my mom kept interrupting me, Ariel, and the flow of normal conversation in general with observations about the people on the train, or things outside the train “Look, Cows!” The train, followed by another cab ride, got us up to Haifa 10 minutes slower than driving. Considering how expensive gasoline is in Israel, it was likely cheaper. You may ask why we didn’t have a second car? Well, Daniella and Steiny were arriving at 5pm and were picking up our 2nd car. Is there a better idea than making people who just got off an airplane after a 10 hour flight, drive an hour in a country they hardly know the language?

Once in Haifa, we were told that at 5pm, we’d be meeting Shalom Steger, my 94 year old grandfather’s 99 year old uncle. Little did we know that they reserved a room, and that Shalom was bringing his son and 3 of his son’s 4 kids, who were all around mine and my sisters’ ages. All STEGER’s!?! Who knew there were so many! I kinda wished they were all old people, so I wouldn’t be forced to socialize, but after 10 minutes the awkwardness wore off and it was actually a really nice couple hours. We talked about nothing, and anytime we wanted to escape a conversation, we would play w/the girls. Dinner was at the hotel lobby’s dairy restaurant, which is right next door to the kosher Chinese restaurant (where we had dinner on Monday). Daniella and David showed up just as we started eating and afterwards we took a walk around the Carmel for an hour before going to bed.

Remote Adventures: My room’s TV remote was missing so I spent an hour asking for help from the front desk and staff, before sitting on my bed, thinking hard, and then looking under my bed exactly where the remote was hidden. It was as if I’d had a revelation, and I knew exactly where it was and why the cleaning staff didn’t find it and put it on the bedside table. If I believed in g-d, I would claim it as proof of his existence. However, I don’t believe it g-d, and thus, I’ll blame my mother’s detective teachings and skills on my ability to find the remote.

Rules for clothing shopping, AKA The Fate Method: You walk into a store and have exactly 60 seconds to walk around. If nothing stands out at you or strikes you as instantly appealing, then you leave. If you do see something that catches your eye, it must be fate, and thus, if it fits, you should probably buy it. The fate method makes shopping quick, and applies to normal sized apparel stores.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Israel: Part 3

Saturday (Tel Aviv):

Hit the beach with Lori and Pablo (LINK) from 10:30 to 2:30. We were under the umbrella the whole time except while in the water. Unfortunately for my skin, we were in the water for about an hour, and I definitely got burned. The water was like a bath, it had to be over 80 degrees…and Tel Aviv, had to be around 94. We had lunch at 3pm together and then headed to the rooftop pool of our hotel to relax and hang out w/our parents. Around 6, Lori headed back to Beer Sheba and at 8, the rest of the family went to dinner w/o me. A) I wasn’t hungry b/c of the late lunch and B) Nadav was picking me up to hit a bar/club called Galina in the port. The kid treats me like royalty whenever I’m in Israel…he’s way over the top friendly…I’m not sure if it’s b/c he likes me or b/c over the last 7 years, he’s spent over a month in my apt in NYC…and would like that service to continue. I wore my newish multicolored white washed shirt so that if I did sweat from the heat or my new sunburn, it wouldn’t be noticeable. By the time we got there, Galina was pack, a line out there door where girls were having a problem getting in. Nadav waves at a few of the bouncers and in we go. We drank till 1ish with a few of his friends, talking about the 40 years since Woodstock party that they’d be throwing the following weekend. Seeing the way Nadav was looking at and talking to a few of the girls, I was forced to ask him if they were ex girlfriends or "future" ex girlfriends. I'm pretty sure he's using that terminology weekly. Rotem, Nadav’s friend who wasn’t at the bar gives us a ride to Dixie, for the best burgers in town. The wings and potatoes were amazing too; Sweet and spicy. Of course, I had bacon! Home at 3am, or 8pm east coast time… I guess I don’t need to worry about adjusting to foreign time on a Saturday night.

Rules for Tanning: Cover your chest at all times and put 60 SPF on your back and neck while ignoring everything else. My arms? My legs? HA! They never burn no matter how much they are in the sun. BUT, for some reason, my chest/shoulders/back burn easily. My legs are dark, my torso has a terrible farmers tan. Part of this is due to live, but considering that I sit behind a desk all day, there’s no legitimate reason why my legs are dark in the winter. I usually just tell people my grandma’s black.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Israel: Part 2

Friday (Tel Aviv):

I landed in the airport and 2 minutes after, Lori calls asking if I’ve arrived. We take the train into Tel Aviv and walk around the port for a few hours, getting ice cream and crepes. I’m soaking wet from sweat. It’s not miserably hot, but I can’t stop sweating! Picture Attached. I showered and napped, but made sure it was only 30 minutes. While I could have slept for hours, if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to go to bed till 3am at least. We walked to dinner at Tamara, 45 minutes away and spent 5 minutes in the bathroom cleaning off the sweat. Pork Ribs, Yummy. Bed at 12:30, no problems.


Rules for eating: I love swine.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Israel: Part 1

I went to Israel last week for 9 days for Naama and Itamar’s wedding, to spend time with the family, my grandfather and cousins, and to work the land for 2 days with Ayalim. I’ve also included various new “rules” along the way. As always, I’ll try to keep the “I did this, I did that” to a minimum, and HERE ARE THE PICTURES.

It's been almost a month since I left for Israel, and that's just way too long to wait for posting purposes. I'm half way done with finishing up, but its really long, and so I'm just going to start posting parts of it daily, in the hope that I'll finish the end before I need to post the end. Also, this will make all my readers have to read upwards, to stay in the right order, which is annoying and thus fun.

Part 1:

I can’t stand EL AL:

Security: “Tell me something else. Tell me something else.” This is what Roni, my security checker kept saying to me over and over again before asking me obscure questions. What is my grandfather’s name? Do I go to a Temple in NY? What are the names of the parents of the bride? How can you visit your cousin at school in Beersheba if school isn’t in session? These questions went on for 15 minutes, literally. Of course, I got my grandfathers name wrong, oops! Coming home was so much easier. You’re def less of a suspect when you’re traveling w/6 people and 2 kids vs going alone.

Kids: Once through security, I emailed my BIL to tell him A) stay left at security, B) there’s no good food after security, C) There’s no shoe shine guy either and D) ask if I should I buy the Time Traveler’s Wife. Both My DJ and BIL have the book, so I didn’t buy it. I got on the plane and prayed for no kids in my row. If you’re flying a religious airline, you may as well try praying. Going to Israel, I ended up next to two 18 year olds, a boy and girl w/weird names. I drugged the girl w/Ambien but it didn’t work, she said she didn’t sleep. Coming home, it was my siblings, but the plane was packed with kids. Kicking, screaming, coughing . . . it was a jungle out there.

Food service: We left at 9pm but somehow dinner wasn’t served to my area until nearly midnight. Like most airlines, EL AL serves the “special” meals first. I prefer to call these the difficult meals, because the people who order them are just being difficult. This is especially true on EL AL, where most of the “difficult” meals are getting Glatt Kosher meals. EL AL already serves kosher food, but these people want extra kosher food. Do you know the difference between kosher and glatt kosher in Israel? The answer is who paid off the right Rabbi. It’s all mafia and politics. Anyway, these people, who are being difficult, get their food first. They’re done eating, and b/c they are difficult people, they are bringing up their trays to the stewards while those stewards are still trying to serve the non difficult people their food. Do you know how frustrating it is to sit and wait for food when other people are done eating? EL AL needs to serve the “Glatt Kosheries” second. I wonder how many would switch to the normal “kosher” meal.

Movies: Just a terrible selection. The one movie I actually wanted to see was Wolverine, and the flight landed during the 2nd half of the movie! 22 hours on planes, I only watched 1.5 movies.

Jewish People in General (this is a generalization): We’re needy. We ask questions. We’re antsy. We stand around on the plane for no reason and barely move out the way when someone is passing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people squeeze past a food cart before. When there’s food service, sit down! When people are sleeping, don’t talk! And when everyone else is asking questions, why are you asking a stupid question too? I feel like this frustration translates into my family’s culture as well sometimes. We board full flights and ask for an upgrade.
Religious People in General: They have 2 parents and 6 kids. They have kids pushing other kids in strollers. They are bumping into people. They think they are better than everyone else. They have no idea that every time they ask a question to a stewardess, while its only 30 seconds, its 30 more seconds that I have to wait for my food! When 20 of them do it, that’s 10 minutes.

Rules for flying on an overnight flight: Take AMBIEN. Why stay up or toss and turn for an 11 hour flight when you can guarantee 4 hours will pass by with the snap of a finger? You don’t sleep with Ambien, you are unconscious. You blink, and you’re there. Of course, this isn’t recommended if you cant’ guarantee yourself 4 hours of time to sleep. Additionally, for the 30min to 1 hour after you wake, you will function perfectly normally, but you won’t really remember much of it. Do you think I remember what was in the breakfast meal they woke me up for? Not a chance!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thinking S Is for Sherry’s Birthday

I think my mom gave one request for her 60th birthday. “I don’t want to plan anything.”

I think, of course, she became deeply involved in the EVITE, the location, the guest list, the menu, and the actual date.

When it came down to finally making decisions I think the 5 “kids” just decided to take control and do it all ourselves.

I think we ended up having a Carmines catered dinner party at my rents apartment for 30ish friends and family.

During the party, I think my mom’s job was to enjoy herself and stay out of the kitchen while I think the “kids” controlled the flow of drinks, and food, and the party in general. We added humas and pitas and veggies and dips to the Carmines and of course, sprinkled some of my mom’s favorite things into the mix.

I think most of those things, surrounded desserts including wet walnuts and City Bakery hot chocolate.

I think, toward the end, the kids put on a skit and Miss Kathy gave a heartfelt speech.

I think this is what the kids said:

S my name is Sherry

A my name is Ariel, and I hold a Ph.D; You’re my favorite sitter, cause you don’t charge any fee.

B my name is Ben, and I’m the awkward middle boy; Because you asked so nicely, I will not marry a goy.

C my name’s Camp Modin, with memories you can’t erase; My biggest claim to fame, is as the Stolpiro birthplace.

D my name’s Daniella, and you know I’m not a bore; Though I’m always very busy, I will try to call you more.

E my name’s Elana, and I have two little girls; You used to want to hang with me, but now they’re your whole world.

F my name’s Atara F###man and I give Grandma joy; Every time we hug and kiss, she gives me a new toy.

G my name’s ginasta, Susan’s game she made you try; If you want that next discard, you must yell out “May I.”

H my name’s hot chocolate, City Bakery’s where I’m found; You best ask Sherry for a sip, before she has me downed.

I my name is ice cream, and with me you are no klutz; You know I’m best when topped, with your favorite wet walnuts.

J my name is jokes, and I arrive in your e-mails; Sherry prints me out, to remember the details.

K my name is keeping the books, and you kept me straight for years; Doron sold your job away, I’m sure that brings no tears.

L my name is Lilah F., and though I can’t yet speak; My mom would really love Grandma, to watch me for a week.

M my name is Marcy, and I’m the family hub; You love to eat with me, at the Crestmont Country Club.

N is my name is Nissin, and I cut Sherry’s hair; I come from Eastern Europe, but I don’t know exactly where.

O my name is old food, and Sherry likes to eat me; she always cuts away the mold, before her guests can see.

P my name is Passover, and for me you have a seder; You cook so much delicious food, we eat it now and later.

Q my name is Queen, cause Malcah is your middle name; Though you are not royalty, you should be treated just the same.

R my name is rescue squad, and Sherry saves lives in heaps; She always comes a runnin’, when she hears the walkie beeps.

S my name is Steiny, and I’m the son-in-law; I married your baby child, and I come from Baltimaw.

T I’m your TA Doron, and many girls I did amaze; You weren’t very good in class, but somehow you got all A’s.

U your name is Sherry, a dessert wine or a song; This poem is almost over, we know it has been quite long.

V my name is value, which Sherry can always find; Sherry’s favorite motto is, “leave no coupon behind”

W my name is walks, and Sherry takes me everywhere; Doron does it for exercise, Sherry to save cab fare.

X my name is Ixtapan, I started with Grandma; Massages, food and swimming, I’ve become the family spa.

Y my name is young, and I’m Sherry’s fun persona; I laugh, I play, I’m silly all day, I dance to my Sharona.

Z is Ze end of the poem, thanks for listening to this noise; We love you Sherry Steger, from favorite girls and boys.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Fashion Experts

I met the Hurricane in November, her friends in January, the DJ in May/June and now I've got a whole new group of friends who I talk to daily. This group is composed of fashionistas... All of them dress well. Some of them work in the industry. All of them study the trends. Some of them write articles about types of clothing I didn't know existed.

As for me, categorizing my fashion sense as dense, could be considered a complement. That doesn't stop me from having strong opinions. As all you kids know, I try to have strong opinions on everything. Three months ago, I created a T-shirt called "leggings are not pants," (shown below). Everytime I wear it (3x now), it's created a bit of stir, a ton of conversation, and somehow made me an expert in the field of "what actually looks good." Glitter, took my shirt and wrote an article on it, interviewing me in the process. HERE IS THE ARTICLE.

I've referenced my guy rules of fashion before, but I don't think I've ever listed them. Now is as good a time as any.

Ben's Fashion Manifesto:

(Aka, Ben's rules for guys, so they don't look bad & stupid. The goal isn't to look good, its to avoid looking bad. Some of these things can look good, but not on everyone.)

1. No exposed belt loops. If you tuck your shirt in, wear a belt.

2. If you are wearing a belt, make it match your shoes. Very simple matching includes Brown belt with Brown shoes and Black with anything else.

3. Make your socks match your shoes. Black with Black, White w/Sneakers, Other clolors w/Brown. No Yellow, Red, Orange, or Light blues or greens or purples.

4. If you're wearing shorts, and sneakers, athletic low cut white socks.

5. Don't show your undershirt. If you are going to wear one, make it a V, make it invisible.

6. If oversweating isn't an issue, wear an undershirt to work, but not at other times.

7. No blue shirts w/jeans. Blue and Blue is for cowboys.

8. No white pants. You're a guy, you don't wear white.

9. Make sure your pants/shorts or shirt are a solid. At least one of the two. If you want to wear plaid shorts, your shirt should be solid. If you want stripped shirt, pants have to be jeans or a solid.

10. No pink shirts. Pink shirts only look good on males of African descent.

11. If your sleeves don't reach your wrist, roll them up.

12. Chains are trashy.

13. Tank tops are trashy.

14. Shirts with embroidering are risky.

15. Don't wear shorts to a strip club, its cold...and nasty.

Of course, these rules contradict the "everything's fine in 09" and the "renegotiating my life" matra I spoke about in my last posting. This is all about mitigating risk to avoid disasters.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Away

I've been away for 15 of the last 18 days... new stories coming I assure you. Israel, Denver, Mom's 60th, My wife... all will be discussed in excruciating detail.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Renegotiating My Life

In any negotiation, you have to be willing to lose big, in order to win big.

This theory was discussed for hours with friends the other day. I'm starting to think, I need to follow this mantra more...and take more risks. Everything's fine in '09 has been life altering to my eating habits, and to my activity schedule (I never get home before 11pm any night). However, my risk taking has always been minimal. Maybe its part of my middle child syndrome.

My theory: Take the less controversial road, cut your losses, and be mostly satisfied. I never really win, I never really lose, it's a real, internal, negotiation. Here are some examples.

1) I was walking to pick up my friend before dinner on a hot muggy NYC day when I noticed my shirt was spotting w/sweat. I must be out of shape, or maybe it was 100 degrees, or maybe I shouldn't be wearing pants and shoes that don't breathe when planning to walk 15 blocks in the summer. Either way, I had a dilemma....and 3 likely scenarios/choices.

A) I pretend like my sweat stains aren't there. If she doesn't notice and I get away with it great. However...

B) I pretend like my sweat stains aren't there and she does notice. She is disgusted and wondering if I'm just a smelly sweaty person all the time. She is grossed out. The only other option is...

C) I tell her about my sweat stains almost immediately, play it off lightheartedly about how embarrassed I am, and say how she makes me nervous, or say the AC on the subway wasn't working or that I bumped into an ex on the way over. This guarantees she notices, but also guarantees she doesn't think I'm some seriously gross guy. This way, I can shift the attention in the direction I see fit, toward my sense of humor, and away from my sweat stains.

Of course, being the "risk" taker I am, I opted for option C.

2) Last night I was at a bar for a friends bday party when OCD showed up w/the new boy she was dating. When I looked at him, he looked pretty familiar, and when he said his name, I was 99% sure, I knew exactly who he was. We'd been friends in 3rd and 4th grade, had gone skiing together every Saturday those winters, and he'd pretty much almost killed me (have a big scar on my head from 7 stitches from a ski to the head). Obviously, there were 2 options:

I) I could mention that we used to be.

II) I could not mention anything.

And there were 3 scenarios:

A) We have a great time catching up, we get along famously, and OCD likes him even more. The drinks keep coming, the stories about my head cracking open are hilarious, and we all live happily ever after.

B) We catch up for 5 minutes awkwardly. Her friend didn't say anything initially, so may be he doesn't recognize me at all, and/or doesn't remember me. Of course, maybe its not even him! Attention is devoted away from normal conversation and OCD has to discuss me for the rest of the evening, ruining her 3rd date.

C) I don't mention my connection w/her date, and we all have a lovely evening. If there convo were to slow, I'd go over and try to spice it up. But they were doing fine on their own, why interject myself to heavily into their 3rd date conversation.

Obviously, I chose the 3rd option.

If there were a fight on the street, or a problem at a job... I wonder if I'd "A" with the "B" consequence, of if I'd just "C" and take the non confrontational path.

I may be time to start "A"ing.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Turning 30, The Plan

My friend Jim turned 30 yesterday. This was his GF's email to those invited to his party. I thought it was phenomenal...and also explained what she had to put up w/during those last few days.

Fool-Proof Plan to "TURNING 30 & LOVING IT"

Background: In an effort to gracefully enter the fourth decade of his life and avoid any anxiety or negativity sometimes associated with the big three-oh, Jim decided 6 months ago to institute his fool-proof plan.

Strategy: Assume you are already 30 and tell anyone who asks that you are 30 so that when you are ACTUALLY 30 it will feel as if nothing's changed. Leading up to your birthday, don't discuss it often and if someone asks what you're doing to celebrate, make sure you have some crazy trip or experience planned (Jim picked Spain) that in all reality, has nothing to do with you celebrating 30 years of life; it just makes for a great excuse to spend money and guarantees the conversation changes from "birthday plans" to "vacation plans."

WARNING: Three days before the big day, you begin to feel overwhelmed and a bit tense. You think a lot and notice yourself over analyzing trivial things more than usual. At first, you blame your sudden mood change (and loss of appetite) on "a long day at work," or being tired, but this excuse only lasts so long (especially if you have a younger significant other who is very excited to celebrate your special day). It is imperative on these three days that you get plenty of sleep, laugh a lot, and most importantly realize that it's okay to show slight vulnerability and nervousness for the day you've strategically ignored (Jim slightly cracked last night and admitted to not wanting to turn 30 and almost refused to open up an early birthday gift).

Goal: You will have successfully followed the plan if:
1. You were able maintain your composure during the critical last few days, and
2. Effortlessly accept two fundamental and interconnected perspectives: Turning 30 is huge, it's a milestone, you'll never do it again, and while you're allowed to fear it for a few days, you have to celebrate it, and celebrate it well with all the people you care about**, so that you realize that while 30 is a new age and you may have a gray hair or ten, it's nothing but a number and all about how you feel…AND JUST LIKE YOU PLANNED, it really doesn't feel any different than 3 months ago when you were telling people you were 30.

Friday, July 31, 2009

I said "I love you" Three Times

This is a conversation I had w/my friend Baribie. She says so many "amazing" things I'm forced to respond w/"I love you" three times. Just an awesome conversation.

Barbie: So, I had tentative plans with bartender this past weekend but was agonizing over when to see him and how to text him and when. So I decided to wait till Friday late night to booty call him when he’s about to finish at the bar.

Meistro: I love you

Barbie: Friday morning I realize I left my charger in jersey so in the afternoon I headed down to a Verizon store near J to buy a charger.
So I pay for a used charger and suddenly guess who appears at my side, Bartender!
Looking even more gorgeous in daylight.
He grabs my arm and tells me to stay till he’s done with his phone issue
We walk to the bar together so he can open up and he tells me he will try to get out at a normal hour (before 3)
Lo and behold, he texts me at 11 to say he should get out by 2, perfect
2 am he meets me at J’s and cabs us over
We pass out by 5
5 30 am the doorbell is ringing
Nonstop
He rolls over and he’s like, “fuck my girlfriend’s here!”
I thought I was in a TV sitcom!!!! It was amazing!

Meistro: Hahaha Did you hide for the night? Climb out the window?

Barbie: no I snuck up to the second floor waited in the hall until they were both in his apt and then bolted.
He gave me money for a cab.

Meistro: How nice

Barbie: crazy!

Meistro: Did you feel cheap?

Barbie: No, I was annoyed that I was woken up at 5 am though
I knew he had someone and he’s not the only person I’m banging
So he texted me “THAT WAS INSANE LEMME KNOW U GOT HOME SAFE”
I didn’t respond till two days later and he was like, “please come over. What’s your favorite ice cream?”
So I went over Sunday night and we talked, I had a lot of questions about the girlfriend.
I was so curious. Like, what was she doing there at 5 am??? and we just kind of vegged on the couch and he gave me a foot rub and we talked for hours
It was nice.
I like getting to know the people I bang.
It makes it more interesting.

Meistro: He has a girl friend?!?! You have a job now... You don't need that anymore! :)

Barbie: yeah but it’s the best sex of my life.
I would totally do this if I had a job too.
He looks like Adonis, I’ve never been attracted to anyone like this.

Meistro: You say that every new guy.

Barbie: true, well about the sex.
But its true the sex gets better and better as we get older.
But he really is in another league.
He’s been with her on and off for 5 years. She’s the "love of his life." They broke up a year ago and he moved out, He says they absolutely cannot live together, it was disastrous. So they are trying to rebuild now but they fight a lot. It’s very passionate.

Meistro: So he has no future w her or you...

Barbie: well maybe for them
It sounds like he really cares about her.
Never thought he was dateable.
He’s too good looking to trust. He doesn’t have enough Jew in him. He’s 26
Barbie: and he’s not funny enough

Meistro: I love you

Barbie: :)
Oh, he said one funny thing.
I was saying how an affair is fun because it s secret only two of u share and he was like, “AND all of YOUR friends!”
Sigh, he knows me so well.

Meistro: Did you video the sex yet so you can remember forever. I'm sure you are not the first he’s cheated with. That's why the sex is good.

Barbie: no but we took some pics on his phone

Meistro: Haha... So he can have you forever.

Barbie: Of course I’m not the first.
I think he’s even had sex with more people than me!

Meistro: Oh boy.

Barbie: He was like, “if I join Facebook will u be my friend?” Which was weird cause he won’t let me take pics of him or tell people his name.

Meistro: Of course not.

Barbie: well and also he’s the face of his family’s company.

Meistro: Any pic of him posted will get him caught if you have mutual friends. Do you know his name!?

Barbie: yeah

Meistro: You are so in love

Barbie: I’m in lust.

Meistro: In crush.

Barbie: Totally
Sigh…

Meistro: I love you

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hipster?

I got a message from the Hurricane last night advising me not to come to a party b/c it was too hipster. "This is way too hipster for u." Unsure what that even meant, I told her I resented that comment and "I can handle anything. I can dress anything." After reading the below definition that my DJ sent me, I'm thinking maybe I couldn't handle it after all. Of course, the picture at the bottom could be why she didn't stay and/or want me there.

Hipster:

Listens to bands that you have never heard of. Has hairstyle that can only be described as "complicated." (Most likely achieved by a minimum of one week not washing it.) Probably tattooed. Maybe gay. Reads Black Book, Nylon, and the Styles section of the New York Times. Drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon. Often. Complains. Always denies being a hipster. Hates the word. Probably living off parents money - and spends a great deal of it to look like they don't have any. Has friends and/or self cut hair. Dyes it frequently (black, white-blonde, etc. and until scalp bleeds). Has a closet full of clothing but usually wears same three things OVER AND OVER (most likely very tight black pants, scarf, and ironic tee-shirt). Chips off nail polish artfully after $50 manicure. Sleeps with everyone and talks about it at great volume in crowded coffee shops. Addicted to coffee, cigarettes (Parliaments, Kamel Reds, Lucky Strikes, etc.), and possibly cocaine. Claims to be in a band. Rehearsals consist of choosing outfits for next show and drinking PBR. Always on the list. Majors or majored in art, writing, or queer studies. Name-drops. May go by "Penny Lane," "Eleanor Rigby," etc. when drunk. On PBR. Which is usually.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2nd Annual MGTW (NJ Style)

2nd Annual MGTW (NJ Style):

Can you think of any good reason to wake up at 6:30 AM on a Sunday besides morning sex or flying somewhere? Well… this past Sunday, I found a 3rd reason. The second annual MGTW (NJ Style)… Mini Golf Tournament Weekend. Last year’s event was split over 2 days and was played on Long island. This year… it was a one day marathon, to the death.

Steiny, Slaw, Aussie and myself got a car, and headed to NJ at 7am. At 8am, when we arrived at the first course the lot was packed… with real golfers. You could say that the staff member at the pro shop was shocked when we asked to play the empty mini golf course. You could also say that he was extremely jealous when we told him we’d be hitting up to 10 courses at 8 locations all over NJ during the day in a massive mini golf tournament (time permitting).

Here’s a picture of us bright and early at the first course:














Besides feeling like it was 100 degrees outside and each of us drinking well over a gallon of liquids, the event was relatively uneventful...regardless of my utter domination

Aussie was dominating until forced to play through injury. Somehow, he had small shards of glass on his index finger. I believe this was a sabotage job by Steiny, but I have no evidence to back this up.

We played at Monster Golf, an indoor course that was lit by ultra violet lights (picture below):














We found a pizza place that had large pies for $7.50 on Sundays. It was worth the 10 minute wait.

We saw a guy 11 put from 3 feet away, in front of his GF, and then hit a hole in one on the next hole.

Like in a cartoon, Aussie stepped on his putter while it was lying on the ground and it swung up and smacked him in the crotch. Unfortunately, I missed this.

Final Scores after 6 courses:
Meistro: 282
Slaw: 291
Steiny: 291
Aussie: 292

Courses Won:
Aussie: 3
Meistro: 2
Steiny: 2

Holes in One:
Steiny: 9
Aussie: 8
Meistro: 8
Slaw: 6

Though I had to leave the group, the 3 remaining continued to play 1 more course, where Aussie took control from the other 2 remaining competitors. He will claim victory, and that I quit and thus my scores are nullified. I will claim that a 10 stroke lead was insurmountable, and dinner w/grandma was not cancelable. This may need to be settled on the field of battle.

Below is a map of our driving path and the courses we went to:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Don't Forget: Friday Night is Karaoke Night

Don't Forget: Friday Night is Karaoke Night

I took "my DJ" up to the Poconos this weekend for a night and day away from the loud city. While getting away for one night isn't that big of a deal, I'm away this coming weekend (Tahoe), she's away the following 2 (Italy), and then I'm away the following 3 (Israel, Denver)... so we probably won't hang out again until mid September.

I’ve been going to the Poconos since my parents got the house, more than 20 years ago. In fact, the first entry in the guest book is something my friend, who got married last weekend, wrote in 1989. We’d always come up w/friends, or family, and I’d never plan anything, and I’d definitely never experienced the culture which exists two hours west of New York.

The first thing we noticed up there was how bad the economy is in the rural US, compared to New York. We stopped at a mall to see what movies were playing b/c it was raining, and almost every store was vacant. I’m not talking about a lack of patrons, I’m talking about a lack of tenants. It was actually pretty scary.

We stopped at an outdoor (but covered) Italian Tiki bar for dinner (They had shrip parm!). The customers had been drinking for hours and the stories they were telling were as "fresh" as anything I’d ever heard. Though DJ and I didn’t mind the entertainment at all, the locals were unnecessarily apologetic, to the point where one of them bought us drinks. I guess if he’s jobless and living off my tax dollars, he may as well buy me a drink (wow, I’m an ass!). I guess DJ and I stood out like sore thumbs. Right before we left, Karaoke at the Tiki bar was just starting up.

Our next stop was the Carnival across the street. Due to the rain, but though the rain had stopped, it was empty and thus closing at 9. We walked to the hotel across the street to see if anything else was going on. Apparently, Karaoke takes place at the Fernwood every Friday night too.

Onto the house we drove, but the road was closed, and thus we stopped at a local establishment for directions on the detour. As I stood waiting to ask a waitress, a local asked what I needed(everyone this weekend was so freaking friendly) and of course, asked where I was from. I guess I stood out like a sore thumb.

Of course we had to make 1 more stop before getting to the house, the Log Cabin Bar & Restaurant. They have pizza and wings and beer and corn nuggets… a full service restaurant. I ordered 2 beers, and the absurdly old bartender told me it was $3, and he meant for BOTH. Yes, I’m talking about $1.5/a beer! The bartender was so old, he asked where we were from, twice. Let me make this clear... The man asked for our orders, noticed how much we stood out, and then asked where we were from. No more than 5 mintues later, he walks over, forgets who we are, notices how much we stand out, and asks where we are from, again. Of course, it was karaoke night at the Log Cabin on Friday night.

Saturday was spent:

Hiking to a waterfall (Click for Pic, and Another),

Hitting that carnival when it was open but still void of people
(Picture of me trying not to puke on the scramble below),

Sliding down a slide (video),

Driving down to the Delaware River where we saw some sort of ritual baptism (picture),

Going to a bakery and picking up some chocolate peanut butter cream pie,

Blinking and realizing that 2 hours had just passed after an awesome nap,

Food shopping for my apartment and office in NJ (Saved so much money buying 20 boxes of cereal),

And eating at a NJ diner.


Here are some things I was thinking about while driving:

I think I forgot to pack my asthma meds, my sandals and my sneakers though I only packed for one night. I think DJ forgot her toothbrush, though she packed enough for 4 nights.

I think the Delaware River is so flat you can’t even tell which way the water is flowing. I think that every time I think of the Delaware, I think of Jaime’s 30th birthday rafting trip where we filled the rafts w/beer and floated 5 miles in 5 hours.

I think I love creating perfect text messages, I may be obsessed. To explain, a perfect text message is one that is exactly 140 characters. I'll add / subtract / alter words just to get there. I think this is the perfect text I sent to my dad saturday night "FYI...I got to you apt friday after work and when changing into shorts before driving I realized my sandals were on 18th st. So I stole a pair of yours! Thanks"

I think I see signs for a “tap room” all the time, and have no idea what one is.

I think that when people ask me "what type of music do you like?" my new response is going to be "music that was written before I was born." I think I've always like the classic rock & the Q.

I think it’s strange when the media discusses how someone fought cancer valiantly. Are there people who don’t and would the media mention it if they didn’t?

I think Harry Potter is an obsession that I’m quite happy about. Before the 6th movie came out, I reread the 6th book, again, for the 3rd time. (I read it when it came out and right before the 7th book came out). I think I love working at a place that is every banks client because it allowed me to go to a screening of HP6, before it opened. I think my sales coverage was shocked when I told him I wanted 2 tickets after he offered to all of his clients. I think I was the only one of his clients w/o kids who wanted tickets.