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


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.