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Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm gonna let you go now

If there is one thing that some people say in this country that makes my skin crawl it is this line: "I'm gonna let you go, now..."

What do you mean you're gonna let me go now? Go where? And why are you letting me go already? What have I done to merit such abrupt ending, such finality?

Here I am having an uplifting conversation with you (on the phone), feeling close and cozy and basking in your attention, and suddenly you are going to let me go. Why? What happened? How did you become this distant person who is going to let me get out of your life without asking me if I am ready to do it?

Only a moment ago you were sharing the latest highlights of your life with me, and suddenly out of nowhere, without any apparent reason or warning, you are letting me go, shutting me out of your life until the next time you are going to bring me back into it, only to let me go again when you are running out of things to say.

And what if I am not ready to be let go? What are my rights when it comes to ending a phone conversation?

There is something so patronizing in this utterance: "I am going to let you go." Now you are the one who decides how long this conversation is going to last, you have more important things to do than spending the entire afternoon with me on the phone, you are done bestowing your graceful attention on me and I have to go back to my uninspiring life while you ride into the sunset.

Every time I hear this line uttered on the phone I want to smack the utterer in the face.

So person, If you need to go, just say it as it is: "Hey, I got to go, I got a ton of things to do, it was great talking to you, blah, blah, blah," but don't just let me go as if I am a fish on a hook who is getting a second chance. Don't put yourself above me with this subtle slap on the face: "I know you are hanging on to every one of my precious words, but unfortunately, I have to let you go, because it looks like you can't do this on your own."

Thank you for listening. You are welcome to stay for as long as you wish.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilad Shalit

I think I finally figured out the best shock therapy for low self-esteem. I would call it The Israeli Prisoners Exchange Method.

All you have to do is count how many potential "martyrs" Israel is ready to exchange to get you back home! one thousand? one thousand and one? one thousand and twenty? one thousand and twenty seven!

I think Gilad Shalit will never have to lie all alone in the dark again and feel the existential throb many of us sometimes feel in the dead of night "nobody loves me..."

The Hamas Inc. can cry victory until hell freezes over, but I don't buy it. You can say that the rules of the game have been stretched too far, you can say that the Israeli government messed up, showed weakness, opened another Pandora's box full of bloodthirsty wanna be martyrs, surrendered to the Hamas, should never have released so many prisoners for one Israeli soldier, whatever, but I don't buy it.

Because no matter how much the Hamas Inc. brags about victory, there is one thing it can't deny: That one Israeli kid is worth more than a thousand of them!

Since the Middle East is built on the honor system, do not delude yourselves that this fact has gone unnoticed by those who adhere to the honor system. This is one sneaky tiny teeny unspoken fact no one on the other side wants to admit. But at night, when darkness falls, when the noise and the gun brandishing and the posturing dissolve into oblivion, the wanna be martyr will have to accept the fact that not only Allah remained indifferent to his/her sacrifice, even the Israelis no longer give a damn about it. Because there is someone much more important in the world than the death wish of the wanna be martyred hero and his ilk.

Gilad Shalit is no hero. But those who fought for his release are.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

What is it with the right-wing government?

During the early 1980s, after Prime Minister Menachem Begin from the Likud Party signed the peace agreement with Egypt and gave up the Sinai Peninsula, a period of political stalemate became the right-wing government motto. The inability to negotiate with the Palestinians led to the First Lebanon War in 1982 and later to the worst economic meltdown in the history of Israel - the 1985 banking crisis and a lost decade of economic growth.

At the beginning of the 1990, the Likud broke away from the National Unity Government (or Alignment) with the Labor and embarked on a policy that rejected any peace initiative with the Palestinians. As a result, Israel experienced cooling in the relations with the Bush I-Baker administration, the first Intifada, and a recession, until Rabin won the elections in1992 and changed direction with the signing of the Oslo Accords.

Between 1996 and 1999, the first Netanyahu government promised to embrace the commitments Israel has made in previous agreements, but three years later the peace process was in shambles and Israel’s diplomatic relations with many countries were again falling apart.

This trend changed once again after Netanyahu’s government collapsed and Barak of the Labor Party won the elections in 1999.

In 2003 Arik Sharon won the elections for the second time in three years. He doubled the size of the Likud Party to 30 seats in the Knesset (out of 120) and established a right wing government. Yet, in spite of his powerful position, he was unable to get a majority inside his own party to accept his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. This plan called for the eviction of a few thousands Jews who were living in the midst of a million and a half Palestinians on one of the most densely populated pieces of land on this planet. Only after Sharon dismantled the Likud Party and took 15 Knesset Members with him to establish his own Party, Kadima, was he able to accomplish a complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. As usual, all the right wing parties, including the Likud and Netanyahu, stood and are still standing united against Sharon’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza.

Nowadays, Netanyahu’s second government, elected in 2009, is repeating the same patterns. After a year full of promises, declarations, and a temporary freeze on building settlements in the West Bank, the usual feet dragging and new demands and conditions for this or that point have brought upon us another stalemate.

Unfortunately for Israel, this time the Palestinians chose to stay away from violence and play the political field: asking for a UN resolution that will recognize the state of Palestine. But as we have seen in the past, there is no chance that a right-wing government would enter any negotiations that could result in territorial concessions to the Palestinians. It has not happened in the past, and it is not going to happen now. Furthermore, any attempt to make changes in the current coalition by Netanyahu is not realistic, because in order to take this radical step Netanyahu has to be Arik Sharon and this is far beyond his qualifications. Therefore, the future scenario is very clear: deterioration in the relations with the regional players, international isolation, economic siege, and erosion in Israel’s security and ability to respond to provocations.

So why do Israel’s right-wing governments keep repeating the same old pattern over and over again?

Just like the scorpion in the famous fable, who catches a ride on the back of a frog in order to cross the river, but in the middle of the river stings the frog and ends up drowning… because it can’t help it, it is in his “nature,” so do Israeli right-wing governments keep bringing Israel to the edge of the cliff, because, as we say, it is in their “nature.”

To be continued…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The perfect storm

Second posting in collaboration with my brother, Yoram Bar On.

This week the collapse has finally begun. All the security and intelligence organizations in Israel have warned us about it (Ha’aretz 9/12). Everyone knows what to expect. Israelis today are sailing toward a hurricane, but they cannot do a thing about it. The bridge is manned by a captain and a team of officers committed to follow their predetermined course. These officers tell us that choosing another course would be more dangerous than staying the course, because man cannot fight nature (that of the Muslims). So, prepare your life boats, put on your life vests, and….

The downward spiral began with Turkey whose leader took advantage of the current vacuum in the Middle East and redrawn the regional agenda. But it could have started elsewhere. Egypt, who now follows the Turkish lead, will pull into the circle other neighbors from North Africa, and this new block of nations will attract more Muslim nations from East Asia; and the circle of nations who severe their diplomatic relations with Israel will only keep growing. This winter the Palestinians will be the hopeful newcomers to the Middle East, and the Israelis will be the all too familiar hateful gangsters. The spectators have already decided who they are going to support. And this support will cost Israel very dearly: it will jeopardize its economy and its security. The Israeli stock market has already lost 30% of its value in the last two months, twice as much as the average losses in other markets, and this trend will only continue in the future. It is becoming very clear that international isolation and a limited ability to react to provocations will have incredibly serious effect on Israel.

Those who are worried about another war, you can rest assured that we will not witness a major war between Israel and its neighbors at the moment. This is not in the interest of any Arab nation, and certainly not in the interest of the Palestinian Authority. A more realistic scenario includes civil disobedience in the territories, violent protests in the Arab world, severance of diplomatic relations, bombings of Israeli targets, and new limits on trade with Israel. As stated earlier, the short-term effect will be mostly economic.

No one who understands the dynamics of the Israeli right wing government was surprised by the latest developments in Cairo and now in Jordan. The question was not “will it happen?” but “when will it happen and what will be the consequences?” The only difference today is that this time the Arabs are the “good guys” in the movie – they are not violent, and they demonstrate for freedom and democracy, while Israel is being perceived as a barrier to peace and justice; a nation caught in the darkness of oppression. Yet, in spite of all this, the right-wing government of Israel will still object to negotiations with the Palestinians and to recognition of a Palestinian state.

This is not the first time it has happened; this is a very familiar pattern, which has been repeating itself since Israel has seen its first right-wing-religious coalition.

To be continued... Putting things in perspective.

Friday, September 9, 2011

in god we... what?

I was driving behind a pickup truck today and I noticed that the license plate from South Carolina had this line written above the number: "In God We Trust." And all I could think was: In god you what? Who ever can trust God? From where did this ridiculous notion come from? I can be trusted more than god, and believe me, I am far from being godly. There is nothing omni about me, except from omni-whiner.

Yet, ask me to be somewhere at 4 o'clock in the morning, and no matter how much I dislike getting up early, or how cold it is outside, I will be there if you need me. Ask me to bring a dish to a potluck, and no matter what happens, I burn the food, I put too much salt in it, I'm too tired to cook, I broke the bowl after I put all the food in it, that dish will be on that table, no matter what disaster befell on me. Ask my daughter how many time she said, "Ima, I need money to go to a concert/movie/dinner/dance party... I need new shoes... I need a ride to the mall...I want yellow mustard.. a new Ipod–" and the list goes on and on, and before you know it, she will have exactly what she wants.

But ask god, and see what happens.

How many times did you get an Ipod from god? or an Imac?

Last time I asked a favor from god, I got a kick in you know where. That's what I get from god. Trusting him would be like trusting someone who has serious commitment issues or problems with substance abuse. He cannot be responsible for his actions. So why would anyone trust him? What can he do that we cannot do? How many times any wish made to that prima donna in the sky was ever granted?

When will people wake up?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

the moment of truth is here: Israel-palestine

This post has been written by my brother, Yoram Bar On, and me after a long discussion on Skype about the current situation in Israel. Hebrew by Yoram, English by me.

Today the Israeli policy in the Middle East is determined by three men: Netanyahu, Avigdor Liberman, and the previous chief of staff, Moshe Ya’alon (the only high ranking retired officer in the right wing government). These three men hold a deterministic belief, typical to the Israeli right wing, that any concession to the Palestinians and the Arabs, and now Turkey, too, can only lead to an unavoidable clash; and this clash will take place under much worse conditions than the current conditions Israel is living with right now. As a matter of fact, all the policies of the Israeli government in the past year emerge out of this belief.

Toward the second half of September, the UN is going to vote for the establishment of a Palestinian state. This vote will receive wide support from all over the world. Following this vote, Israel will have to decide what its position is going to be: either a full recognition of the UN vote for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, or a rejection of the vote followed by the usual vague statements. Any decision that is not going to look like a clear recognition and acceptance of the UN vote will be interpreted all over the world as an Israeli refusal to accept the UN vote; a vote similar to the one taken 64 years ago which enabled the partition of Palestine into two states and the establishment of the state of Israel.

The decision to recognize the UN vote will compel Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of the principles that will be adopted by the UN. This step will prevent a violent explosion and a wave of protests against Israel in the Arab world. Israel will receive international support and for a few months it will be given more political freedom to act against extremists who will try to jeopardize the negotiations. Under this scenario it is quite possible to see Egypt and Turkey softening their positions and even warming up toward Israel. The maneuvering space of Israel’s enemies in the Muslim world will diminish as well. This process will possibly have a very positive effect on the politics, economy and security of the region.

The second option – a refusal to recognize the UN vote or a rejection of the vote with a variety of vague statements will identify Israel as the only cause that prevents the fulfillment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians for self-determination. Israel will be seen as an obstacle to peace and an occupying power, a view that will give legitimacy to acts of aggression against Israel. The support for the Palestinians will give acts of protests against Israel more legitimacy which will not only escalate the violence against Israel, it will also tie up Israel’s ability to respond to the violence.

So what will Israel do?

Netanyahu’s right wing coalition cannot choose to recognize the UN vote. Any recognition of the UN vote will cause an immediate secession of the religious-right block from the coalition and the collapse of the government. For that reason, Israel will choose evasion and the use of vague statements that will add certain conditions on any bilateral negotiations. This is what Netanyahu's government has been doing for the past two years, and this is what Netanyahu had done when he was the prime minister between 1996-1999.

Since this time the case is not just another Middle Eastern neighbors’ dispute which allows for the usual mutual accusations, but a clear decision of an international organization, the evasion tactics of the Israeli government will not hold. Therefore, we should expect a collision that will have very serious political, economic, and security repercussions.

A short time after the UN vote, a new cycle of violence will resume in the area: protests, rockets, terrorist attacks, and an Israeli reaction which will bring forth more of the same. Following an Israeli response to attacks, we should expect threats from the Arab countries and a downgrade of all diplomatic relations with our Arab allies. An Israeli military response will also bring international condemnations and calls for a general boycott whose effect on Israel will be very harshly felt.

[In my last conversation with my brother he said that he would not be surprised if two European countries severe their diplomatic relations with Israel in the near future.

I call that optimism...]

We now even have a song about it: Middle of September: Esther Shamir

suggest read: an article in Foreign Policy by Ziad J Asali

ממשלת ישראל מונהגת כיום על ידי שלושה אישים מרכזיים: ליברמן, משה יעלון בוגי, ונתניהו. ההשקפה Linkהמשותפת לשלושתם היא אמונה דטרמיניסטית בהתנגשות הכרחית עם השכנים בסוף כל תרחיש. מהנחה זו נגזרת המדיניות של ממשלת ישראל בשנה האחרונה, כך גם תגובת ישראל לאירועים המדוברים כאן.

קצת אחרי אמצע ספטמבר צפויה החלטה באו"ם על הקמת מדינה פלשתינית שתזכה לתמיכה גורפת ממדינות העולם. בעקבות החלטה זו תיאלץ ישראל להחליט על עמדתה. לפני ממשלת ישראל ניצבות שתי אופציות - הכרה בהחלטת האו"ם ובמדינה הפלשתינית לצידה, או הימנעות מהכרה בהחלטה בניסוחים מתחמקים כלשהם. כל החלטה שאינה הכרה ברורה בהחלטה, תתפרש ע"י העולם כסירוב של ישראל לקבל את החלטת האומות המאוחדות, החלטה דומה לזו שלפני 64-שנים אפשרה את חלוקת הארץ והקמת מדינת ישראל- ב- כ"ט בנובמבר 1947.

בחירה בהכרה בהחלטת האו"ם תחייב את ישראל להיכנס למשא ומתן עם הנהגת הרשות הפלשתינית על בסיס עקרונות מוסכמים שיופיעו בהחלטה. תהליך כזה ייתר כל אלימות ותופעות של מחאה בעולם הערבי. ישראל תזכה לתמיכה בינלאומית רחבה ומספר חודשים תהנה מאשראי מדיני לפעול כנגד קבוצות קיצוניות שינסו לטרפד את המשא ומתן. במקרה זה סביר כי מצרים ותורכיה יאלצו למתן את תגובותיהן ואף לחמם יחסים. מרחב התמרון של מתנגדי ישראל בעולם המוסלמי יקטן. לתהליך זה השפעות פוליטיות, ביטחוניות וכלכליות חיוביות.

האפשרות השנייה – אי הכרה של ישראל בהחלטה או דחייתה בטיעונים שונים. תגובה זו תזהה את ישראל כגורם היחיד המונע מימוש זכות לגיטימית להגדרה עצמית של עם כבוש. ישראל תוצג כסרבנית שלום וכמדינה כובשת, דימוי שיעניק רוח גבית לפעולות מחאה ותוקפנות כלפי ישראל בכל המדינות הערביות. התמיכה הגורפת בפלשתינאים בעולם תעניק למחאות לגיטימציה נוספת שתביא להסלמה מחד ולהגבלת יכולת התגובה של ישראל מאידך.

באיזו דרך תיבחר ישראל? לקואליציית הימין של נתניהו אין אפשרות לבחור בהכרה בהחלטת האו"ם. הכרה כזו תביא מיד לפרישה של האגף הימני-דתי ולנפילת הממשלה. לכן ישראל תיבחר בשלב ראשון בדרך ההתחמקות וניסוחים מעורפלים שיציבו תנאים למו"מ דו צדדי. כך עשתה ממשלת ישראל בשנתיים האחרונות, כך עשה נתניהו גם בתקופת שלטונו הקודמת.

מאחר והמקרה הפעם אינו מחלוקת שכנים מקומית במזרח התיכון המאפשרת האשמות הדדיות אלא החלטה ברורה של ארגון בינלאומי, טקטיקה של התחמקות מצד ישראל לא תתקבל . אנו צפויים אם כן לתסריט התנגשות שיהיו לו השלכות מדיניות, ביטחוניות וכלכליות מרחיקות לכת, סביר כי זמן קצר לאחר אישור ההחלטה באו"ם יחלו אירועים אלימים מסוגים שונים- הפגנות, ירי טילים, ניסיונות פיגוע, תגובה ישראלית וחוזר חלילה. בהמשך יבואו איומים מצד מדינות ערב יובילו להסלמה נוספת ביחסים המתקררים. תגובה צבאית ישראלית על פגיעה בה תוביל לגינויים בעולם ובאו"ם ולקריאות לחרם כלכלי-תיירותי- ומדיני שהשלכותיו הפנימיות על ישראל יהיו חמורות ביותר.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Being pooped on twice in less than 24 hours

If there is one thing that makes me lose my sense of humor it is being dragged into a court of law. That is why since I decided to contest a mean traffic citation I received on memorial day weekend, I have been searching for my poor, mutilated sense of humor. It is gone. Disappeared. Left me to my own unqualified devices, forcing me to look for a miracle that will bring it back from its hiding place.

I was hoping that this sense of humor of mine, which I became so attached to, would at least come to my rescue when I was found guilty by the traffic court judge who completely ignored my very astute statement, which I tried to read in a steady voice in spite of the terrible shaking of my knees and my severe heart palpitations. But no, it dug itself even deeper into the black hole it was sucked into since I saw the writing on the citation: "Failed to stop at a red light."

I had to find a healthy way to cope with the $480.00 fine which I had already paid before I was even found guilty, because that's how justice works here (they call it "bail" to make the robbery look more legal...) But I drew a blank. Because the torment was not yet over. On top of the astronomical amount I had already paid, I still had to pay for traffic school.

I guess I should have been thankful that I was not tarred and feathered and let loose on Highway 1 to scare other delinquent drivers like myself.

But, wait. I almost did get tarred and feathered.

I should have seen it coming when I saw the message from an untarred feathered creature. But as most human brains work, my brain preferred to disregard the evil omen.

As it was, the night before I had to go to court I left my car, the one that brought the citation calamity onto my life, at the parking lot of the local holistic pharmacy and went to purchase some voodoo remedies that would help me cope with the apprehension that threatened to completely paralyze me at the hearing. When I got back to my car, I witnessed something utterly incomprehensible: the car was splashed from roof to tires, front to back, windows, mirrors, and door handles with white watery grayish bird poop. It was as if a gigantic pterosaurs purged itself right on top of it. I knew there was a message in that poop, but I was too mortified to analyze it. I drove my dripping toilet back home and hosed it until all signs of bird poop disappeared. But the sense of doom remained. I was pooped on, a day before my appearance at the court.

Some people say that being pooped on by a bird is a sign of good luck. I never believed it. And now I believe it even less.

It was an awfully humiliating experience to contest my traffic ticket. But I did it anyway because I don't like being pooped on by bird, policeman, or traffic court judge.

I am now preparing my appeal.

Let's see what the birds are going to do about it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I have a mental disorder related to socks.

When I lose a sock, a part of my mind gets lost with it. I just can't wrap my mind around this phenomenon. What black hole in my universe sucks it in? I don't feel any special energy lurking between my bedroom and my washing machine, yet, once in a while, an invisible evil spirit manages to coerce a sock of mine into total oblivion. Until then, everything in my life seems to go perfectly well; no major crisis looms in the air, no unresolved issue nags me during sleepless nights, everyone important to me is alive and healthy, the stock market is moving in the right direction, and then, out of the blue, I lose a sock.

My daughter has heard about my disorder from her father, who had seen me more times than I care to admit, frantically looking for a missing baby sock he had failed to bring back from the Laundromat. No matter how small and insignificant that sock might have been, my reaction to its disappearance can only be described as psychotic.

Eliya thinks I'm crazy.

I pretend not to care. Until I lose a sock I really care about. Like a tabi sock – one of those Japanese socks that can be worn with flip-flops (pic above). I wear tabi socks when I perform with my Taiko drumming group. It's a part of my "uniform."

I have only one pair of tabi socks so I feel very attached to it. This pair is unlike any other pair of socks I wear. It is used only on very special occasions. So when I discovered that one of my black tabi socks disappeared into the black hole of all lost socks, my world came tumbling down. I lacked the proper psychological tools to cope with the loss; neither did I have the familial support system to help me overcome the trauma.

I asked Eliya to help me look for my lost black tabi sock. She immediately announced that I could not blame her for the loss because she did not do the laundry. I took full responsibility and turned the house upside down in a desperate search. But to no avail. The sock seemed to have resettled in a different dimension; one of those elusive dimensions only string theory physicists can locate or at least imagine.

In my desperation, I told Eliya I would give her a lot of money if she would find the sock. (I will not disclose the amount because this can provide legal grounds for immediate hospitalization). Eliya's eyes lit up at the thought. But it didn't help her find the sock. (She was also beginning to consider to "disappear" other socks and make a fortune, but I preempted the thought and said I would only pay for that specific sock).

After several days, I called off the search and adopted a primitive, unchecked blind faith. I became a firm believer that one day the lost tabi sock would come back to me. I knew it was not destined to remain in purgatorial limbo of all lost socks. It was coming back to me, if only for my firm belief and strong faith that it would come back. I will will it back and it will manifest itself. To me!

And so one morning it did. At the most anti-climatic mundane life instant. I opened the socks drawer, pulled a black pair out, and there it was, rolled up next to another unprivileged, ordinary black sock. Just like that.

I guess my faith convinced that tabi sock that not all socks were doomed. Some socks were destined for greatness. Some socks were destined to return. To me!

Now I know, it is all in the attitude.

The attitude of the sock, I mean. Not mine...

Monday, June 13, 2011

summer break

A couple of weeks ago my precious one was accepted to a summer program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to do some training for something or other. This program is highly coveted by teenagers and their parents. Parents bring their children to Monterey from Stockton and Sacramento to participate in these programs. It is that popular. And for those who don't know, Monterey Bay aquarium is one of the most incredible places for learning activities related to ocean conservation and marine life, so I feel pretty lucky that my daughter got in.

So here are some highlights from the exchanges I had with her today when I came home after work:

Me: So how was it? What did you do at the aquarium?
teenage girl: Stuff.
Me: What kind of stuff? can you give me an example?
teenage girl: I donno. We learn things.
Me: Like what?
teenage girl: All kinds.

Me going to the kitchen to unload groceries. Teenage girl is hooked up to her Imac laptop. She's eating a piece of Challa bread she sliced for herself. I consider this a big achievement. She doesn't slice bread on her own in my presence.

Me: So you don't want to tell me?
teenage girl: Nope.
Me: Will I ever find out?
teenage girl: On the last day.
Me: When is the last day? I didn't get any emails about it, how would I know when it is?
teenage girl: I donno.

Me taking trash downstairs. Back upstairs.

Me: Are you really going to the aquarium after I leave? I think maybe I should follow you in the morning and see if that's where you're really going. For all I know you might be selling your body when I am not around.
teenage girl: Yes, Ima, that's what I really like to do in my free time. (Notice that this prompt got the longest verbal reaction from her, which I consider a success!)

We go downstairs to the car. We get in the car. I turn the key in the ignition. I'm taking her to drumming class.

Me: I don't love you anymore.
teenage girl: I don't love you.
Me: Yes, you do. You don't have a choice. You're wired to love me.
teenage girl: You don't have a choice, either.
Me: Yeah, you're right.
Teenage girl: So why you say it?
Me: To scare you.

Teenage girl gets out of car and goes to class, totally unfazed.

Ah, the joy...

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

root canal, anyone?

I've always thought of myself as one of the few blessed people who have no dental issues. I visit the dentist twice a year to get my teeth cleaned and cross one line on my to do list. But this last weekend the evil dental karma kicked in and for the first time in my life I experienced a real tooth ache. After a few hours of shock and denial, I put myself on pain killers and tried to figure out what to do next.

I ate mashed potatoes from powder and ripe bananas when I felt dizzy with hunger, because I couldn't chew anything without feeling like half of my head was going to fall off my face. I washed my mouth with salt water. I flossed. I slept. I tried not to overdose on painkiller. In short, I was terrified. Words like "root canal," "infection," "emergency," and the worst of all "dentist" floated in my skull, which became very noticeable after years of carrying it around without ever realizing it was there.

On Monday I made an appointment to see my dentist.

And then, as I was getting into my car, my brain did a really interesting thing. It stopped sending me pain messages. I beat on my achy tooth, I pressed on my cheek, I felt the tooth with my tongue. No pain. None whatsoever. Uh-ha, I thought to myself, I am not buying this. This must be a strange brain trick and whatever weird thing is going on in my head, it must be explainable. But I am not canceling my appointment, no matter what weird acrobatics my crazy brain is doing.

So I went, even though there was no pain anywhere. I was just hoping the dreaded root canal would not happen. Because root canals happen to other people. Like death. And cancer. And tsunamis. And tornadoes. I have a simple life that does not entail root canals. Fillings yes, whitening, maybe; but root canal is a disaster of mega proportion that simple people like me just can't face.

The dentist came with his assistant and after numbing my mouth with something, he gave me two shots to anesthetize the area. I hyperventilated so bad while he stuck the needle in my mouth, that I thought I was going to faint. Just don't say the words "root canal," because I will pass out. That was all I could think.

He said he was going to let the anesthetic kick in and come back in a while. That was good news. I really needed a break. After he left, I decided to get my mind off the dreaded root canal with a book I brought with me. The classical music that was playing outside was not doing much for my nerves.

So I opened the book and started reading where I left off. It took me a couple of minutes to notice what I was reading. It was a description of an execution. And not just any execution. It was an assembly line execution by hanging of Nazi war criminals. Can somebody please explain this to me? All I was trying to do was get my mind off the root canal and calm down. It didn't need to go that far. Nazis and executions and nooses and trapdoors. And they were executing women there, too. I am not making this up. You can check the book, The return of the dancing master, page 6.

I put down the book and leaned back, trying to quiet my mind. The dentist came back and started drilling. Now everyone knows the horror of the drilling sound, right? He was digging and drilling, and his hands were in my mouth, and his assistant, who was also a guy (meaning big hands), had one of his hands in my mouth with the air blower thingy and the saliva sucking thingy and the holocaust that was going on in my mouth was beyond horrific.

And all I could do was think: "Thank god for anesthesia, thank god for anesthesia, thank god for anesthesia, thank god for anesthesia, ..."

And then I realized that I was thanking god, and I don't believe in god. If there was a god, there wouldn't have been tooth ache in the world and everybody's teeth would have been perfect. So I decided to thank mankind instead, and started chanting in my head: "Thanks mankind for anesthesia, thanks mankind for anesthesia, thanks mankind for anesthesia, thanks mankind for anesthesia..."

And then again a thought came to my mind. I should think humankind because what if a woman invented anesthesia? That would be unfair. So I diverted to "thanks humankind, thanks humankind for anesthesia..." but that was too long and so outlandishly politically correct that I got annoyed at myself, so I said screw this and went back to god: "thank god for anesthesia, thank god for anesthesia.."

By the end of my internal negotiation with my utterly insane brain, the dentist announced that it was all over and that I would get a phone call when my crown was ready.

"Did I have a root canal?" I asked.

"Nope," he said.



"Everything is still there?"

"Yup," he said. "I'll see you in a couple of weeks."

Halleluiah. Thank god for dentists.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Obama's AIPAC address

I have to admit that watching Obama give a speech to AIPAC today took the edge off my tooth ache. All the pain killers I've been taking since Friday night didn't begin to ease the pain as much as Obama's words. I can't wait to see how this no-drama-queen guy, this super rational brain will force the Israelis and the Palestinians to figure out a solution to their conflict. I have a feeling he would pull something out of his hat, sooner or later.

Anyone who heard Obama's Middle East policy speech on Thursday could hear that he said something to the effect of pre-1967-war borders with land swaps bla bla bla. And those who didn't hear well, could have easily found the transcript of that speech. I definitely heard him say "land swap" on Thursday. And I am sure I was not the only one who heard that.

But not Netanyahu. He had to blow a fuse and flail hysterically as if he were the smartest guy in the room: 1967, 1967, that's not the borders we can accept. As if what Obama had said was big news. Those "mutually agreed swaps" Obama referred to were already discussed in Camp David 2000 between Clinton, Barak, and Arafat. Just read the book Gili Sher, who was one of the Israeli negotiators, wrote. The name of the book is במרחק נגיעה. I have an author signed copy if you can't find it on Amazon. (I couldn't). And if you can't find that one, read Dennis Ross's account of Camp David. It tells the same story, only in English.

Anyway, watching Obama speak to that crowd was like watching the State of the Union, only better. Because it was all about stuff I care about, but without any Republican yelling "you lie." (I don't think AIPACers are crazy enough to scream at him, yet).

There were two revealing moments in the speech, the first when he reassured the audience that "the commitment of the United State to the security of Israel is iron clad." The applaud lasted 20 seconds! And the second time was when he reminded the audience of something he had said last year: "Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate, and efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” These lines were followed by seventeen seconds of applaud, whistles and shouts. Though the camera did not pan on the audience I could feel that people were jumping off their seats in excitement.

Israel has been around for over 60 years and Jews still need to get validation from the president of the United State that Israel has a right to exist. Show me another country whose citizens need this type of reassurance. It is really amazing that after 60 years saturated with full-blown wars, countless military operations (justified and unjustified), terror attacks, scuds, kassam rockets, long range missiles, short range katyushas, unilateral withdrawals, iron dome, road blocks, cease fires, unruly settlers, Jewish underground, peace agreements, failed negotiations, chemical and nuclear threats, left-wing government, right-wing government, technological and scientific breakthroughs, social experimentation, economic meltdowns and recoveries, Israel still has to fight for legitimacy. I think this is the only country in the world whose citizens still fight for acknowledgment from the world: Please look at us, we exist, give us a break already.

And then I thought: all those Israel haters who believe that the Jews conspire to rule the world (and Congress) and the media with the evil AIPAC are probably seething as they watch Obama "selling off" to the Jews.

If they only knew...

Oh, on second thought, happy belated birthday Israel.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My blog was one year old, yesterday

I didn't write as much as I planned. But I'm still writing, once in a while. And you, my dear reader, are still coming back.


I love seeing you coming back. I recognize you in my spying program that shows me who drops in and for how long. Some of you sneak a pick and then leave me a thumb up on my facebook page. Some leave a message. I love reading your messages, even if you don't always agree with me.

As you see, I write about different things. I am really into politics and can't stop commenting on stuff, mostly the stuff that irritates me. Like stupidity, ignorance, GOPism, and now the new item on the list, the so-called Arab Spring. Those of you who see my comments on facebook may have seen my latest; that the Arab spring is giving me a bad case of allergies, because this is what spring does to me. It makes me sneeze.

I was happy to see the Egyptians go out to the square, but now when I read about clashes between Muslims and Coptics in Egypt I am reminded that change comes slowly to the Middle East. It comes kicking and screaming in the form of fires, fists and bullets.

Then the Palestinians start "protesting" their Nakba and I think to myself, "same ol' same ol'" like we don't see thru it; that it is such a nice diversion from the real Nakba that is going on in Syria.

And that the Palestinians are buying into their eternal "protest."
Man, these people just can't see the light.

Now I sound like a real Israeli. I guess there is a limit to my open-mindedness, sometimes.

Luckily, I am not all about politics. You probably read some of my adventures in online dating, speaking with an accent, and motherhood. For example, my introduction to Korean everything. That's been a curios ride that I am still enduring every day. But that's also what I called "the joy of having a kid," in one of my earlier posts.

I wrote 62 posts in my first year. That's an average of 5 posts per month. Not sure what it means.

Those of you who drop in once in a while, keep on dropping in. Leave a comment if you feel like saying something. Some of you have asked me to write about a specific topic, and I like that. Let me know if you wish to read my perspective on something. I will always try to keep it as "Other" as I can.

thank you. shukran. 감사합니다 .

تشحر. obrigada. gracias.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

5 things I'm grateful for on this Mother's Day

1. When I got into my car this morning it started on the first try. After years of driving all kinds of disasters I am still enjoying the daily miracle of hearing my car starting without emitting any scary noises that indicate something has gone terribly wrong under the hood and it's going to cost me an arms and a leg to fix it.

2. Driving on Highway 1 and seeing the sprinklers at work in the artichoke fields. Nothing makes my heart sing like the sight of sprinklers shooting water arrows into the air. Eliya asks me why I get all excited when I see sprinklers, and I say, They remind me of the landscape of my childhood, and then I realize that she knows what I mean because she had seen the landscape of my childhood during her last spring break. When I cross over to Highway 101 the hills are bright green and thousands of tiny yellow and pink flowers cover the slopes along the highway. The skies are heavy with fat gray clouds heading towards the mountains in the east, yet, the air is warm and clear.

3. Hearing my daughter saying "happy mother's day, Ima," as she gets into my car, smiling, knowing how happy her greeting makes me. And then she lets me kiss her on the cheek. I know she lets me do it because no one is around to see this very embarrassing show of affection.

4. Being able to buy my daughter her dream laptop. The salesman is surprised that I choose Mother's Day to do it. A friend texts me, concerned that I misunderstand what Mother's Day is all about. And I think to myself, sure I understand. Mother's Day is about empowering the mother in me, so I choose to use my power to make my own decision and lavish on my daughter. Be extravagant and indulge in my mothering today. I don't want breakfast in bed. Only when I'm sick I eat in bed. And I certainly don't feel sick today.

5. Having the audacity to bake. I don't bake. But there is a graveyard of bananas in my freezer and they are begging to be used for something, and by now I already know that no matter how many fruit shakes I might make, I will never be able to use them all. So I find a recipe for banana bread online, and I mix all the ingredients in a bowl and fill the baking pan and put it in the oven.

If my banana bread comes out well when I take it out of the oven, I will have something to be grateful for tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden...What else?

I was going to write about the royal wedding which almost went under my radar, but then Osama was killed and all hell broke loose, so I have to postpone my cynical comments to another day.

It is not like I know anything no one else knows, but I had an interesting conversation with an unlikely observer and the emerging theory which I haven't seen anywhere in the blogosphere is this: "Of course the Pakistanis knew he was there and of course they knew when the Americans came to kill him. But for their own sake they have to pretend that they knew nothing and keep themselves out of the picture, otherwise they would have to deal with even more suicide bombings and more insurgency in their towns. And the top dogs will have to really look over their shoulders all the time."

So my question was: They prefer to be called incompetents and/or liars than face the music of the TPG, i.e. Taliban Propelled Granade?

The answer up till now is yes.

So maybe the story is that Obama's people are protecting the Pakistani government from the wrath of Osama's followers.

We'll probably never know.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

out of my comfort zone

Some people go to Africa to get a taste of exotica.

I go to McDonald's!

For the first time in my life I walked into McDonald's on my own and ordered... Actually I didn't know what to order or how to order it. I looked at the menu on the wall and got totally lost. I didn't understand the names of the things or the numbers next to them. Is 6.29 the price of something? I've never seen anything that costs $6.29. What kind of price is that? I know 15.99 or 3.99, but 6.29? I thought maybe it was a code or the number of calories. But why decimals? It just didn't make sense.

So the guy asked me what I wanted to order and I said that I wanted (please forgive me...) chicken nuggets. It was the only thing I knew how to order at McDonald's. When I was pregnant with my daughter we once stopped at a drive thru and got me chicken nuggets. That was the last time I was near a McDonald's. Today she is almost 15. Oh, and I wasn't the one who ordered it. It was her American dad who drove thru, ordered and paid. So I never learned how to do it.

The guy looked me questioningly. I asked how I was supposed to order it. He said I can have a 6-piece, 10-piece or 20-piece order. I said 6 pieces and a coke.

Then I told him I have never ordered anything at McDonald's so I needed a little help. He asked me if I was from around here. Yup, for the last 20 years, I nearly said. But I decided not to say anything and just nodded. When he asked me what kind of sauce, I wanted to kick myself as I heard my own voice uttering "what do you have?"

I sat there and read my book "Songs of blood and sword," a memoir written by Fatima Bhutto, the niece of Benazir Bhutto; not your typical read at a McDonald's I suspect, but there was no other place I could kill an hour while my car was being serviced.

Only after sitting there for half an hour did I realize that I should have ordered fries. That's what people eat at McDonald's. Fries and a big Mac. But at the moment of truth, I forgot and missed my only chance.

When I told my daughter later that evening that I went to McDonald's her immediate reaction was "you're a bad person, Ima."

But I didn't feel that bad. While I was sitting there I saw a sign on the wall declaring that Monterey-Salinas McDonald's offer their employees' health insurance.

I think I'll take my daughter for some fries and ice cream at McDonald's to see that sign. Maybe she will change her mind about me.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Waste Not Want Not

Today, Easter Sunday, I went to the egg-hunting gathering and memorial for Cynthia Criley Williams. She was 95 when she left this world on January 29, 2011. I was one of the privileged many who frequented her home in Carmel Highland, right off Highway 1, overlooking Bird Rock (photos taken by your humble blogger).

I joined the flock that came to sit at Cynthia's feet, literally, in 2006 when my friend M took me there for dinner one Saturday evening. I didn't expect anything and no one prepared me for the phenomenal institution called "Cynthia."

Dinner was an informal pot luck sort of thing, with some people chopping vegetables and cooking in the open kitchen, some bringing stuff they either prepared or bought somewhere on the way, and some just hanging around the fireplace with a glass of wine. I didn't know anyone but felt quite at home right away.

The thing I liked the most about that dinner was that every plate, every fork, every knife, every glass and cup that stood on the dinner table were of different design, different set, different size. Cynthia's house was and still is the most down to earth, unpretentious, real place one can enter. A simple paper sign hangs up above the door leading to the hallway, reminding wayward thoughts to align themselves with the important stuff: Waste Not Want Not.

There used to be a time in my previous life that I dreamed of being a housewife whose most challenging decision of the day would be choosing which set of China to use for dinner. Cynthia's dinner table and the sign above the door made me remember that dream and wish it had never tainted the pages of my history.

When I was introduced to Cynthia, she immediately started reciting something in Latin. Of course I had no idea what she was saying. It had something to do with France and the Roman empire and the province of Gallia, which I know near to nothing about, apart from my long-ago encounter with the comic book hero Asterix who lived in Gallia.

Since that night, every time I came to Cynthia house she recited something in Latin for me. And then she would get the dictionary and look for a word, without reaching for reading glasses. Yup, 90 years old and doesn't have to use glasses to read from a dictionary.

Today, many people talked about Cynthia's amazing life and I learned quite a few things I didn't know about her, but kind of felt I knew, because certain things don't need to be said in order to be known.

I feel very privileged and lucky to be a part of the crowd that Cynthia accepted into her home. It is one jewel of an experience I totally cherish.

Thank you Cynthia and the Williams girls (Molly, Honey and Bee) for letting me in. I must have done something right to get there. I only wish I knew what it was so I could do it again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

name recognition

It's interesting that the Democrats were able to send an unknown black man to the White House, while the Republicans struggle to outdo themselves. Every few weeks we hear another big name planning an exploratory committee or timidly announcing a lack of interest in running. Yeah, sure. Just to make us wimpy Democrats a little nervous. And in case the name seems a bit wobbly, they just attach it to a TV reality show or a mean-spirited talk radio and hope for the best.

Palin didn't make it with McCain, so they gave her a TV show; Huckabee flunked in the primaries, they gave him a TV show, Limbaugh built his own little nasty empire with a radio talk show; and now Donald Trump who is probably better known for his "you're fired" line is showing signs of joining in. The scary part is that I know this line even though I don't even watch TV.

Obviously when the Republicans shoot for name recognition they go for the stars. Before reality TV became big, before Faux News became a nuisance, Hollywood did it for them: Reagan, Schwarzie, the guy from Law and Order who ran in the primaries and lost, whatever his name was.

They will shove their name recognition strategy down our throat until we choke. Maybe another Bush can be added to the list?

Ouch, that would be really trippy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fuck Planned Parenthood

Okay, okay, now that I got your attention read this.

Of Course I think Planned Parenthood is totally essential. After all I am a progressive liberal, justice seeker, bla, bla, bla. I believe that everyone, including uninsured women should have health care and all the services that Planned Parenthood provides. I myself donate to Planned Parenthood. So now that I covered my behind, here's my point:

Let the Republicans eliminate Planned Parenthood. After all, who needs the services offered by Planned Parenthood? Poor women, women in reproductive age, and teens.

Now, who does this segment of American society vote for? You guessed. Not Democrat.

We all know that the highest teen pregnancy is in the South. Who do teen girls vote for? You guessed. No one. Who do the parents of the teen girls vote for? Ah ha, you guessed again. The South is mostly red, I hear.

Next: Most poor woman in reproductive age don't vote. Look at the numbers. People under 30 don't vote. Poor people under 30 don't vote. And the poor in the South, do they vote Democrats? I don't think so.

So let the poor eat their Republican stew, and spice it up with Glenn Beck hysterics and Rush Limbaugh foulness (I feel queasy polluting my blog with these names, yuck!!).

I am so tired of seeing poor uneducated people vote against their interests again and again and again. Fill them up with idiotic ideas like fighting same sex marriage or banning abortions for rape victims and drag them to the polls and see them vote... Republican - vote for those who take advantage of people's ignorance, stupidity, narrow mindedness, misguided patriotism, self-righteous religiosity... okay, you see where I'm going with this.

It is time Democrats spill the beans and tell those misguided voters that if they want help they should vote Democrats, because Democrats are their last hope. Because Democrats fight for them out of the stupid goodness of their hearts. Because Democrats believe in social justice and all these ridiculous ideas Tea Partiers and their cohorts sniff at.

Hear me one last time: It is time those most in need of social services stop shooting themselves in the foot, stop sending selfish ideologues to Washington because they ban abortions and same sex marriage. Who gives a damn about that stuff when you can't get basic health care?

Let Planned Parenthood go.

See you next elections.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

the kill team photos scandal

If you didn't see the photos posted by Rolling Stone Magazine (here) it's probably because stories from Afghanistan have long stopped being of any interest to you. I don't blame you. This war has been going for so long, it doesn't feel like a war. It's just one unending same ol' same ol' story.

I can't ignore stories from Afghanistan because two very decent Afghan men sit in my office. We don't talk much about the war. But we do talk about Afghanistan. So I learn all kinds of things I didn't know about this country. For example, Afghanistan's national sport is Buzkashi. I will not explain the rules of the game here, but let's say that if you are an animal rights person, this sport would leave you seriously upset. In short, Afghanistan is not for wimps.

Anyway, I read about the recent photos coming out of Afghanistan but I didn't bother to look for them. I mean, why get all worked up about this lost cause we call Afghanistan? But the other day I heard my office mates talk about the photos. One of them said he was not going to let his wife see them. The other said they were worse than the photos from Abu Ghraib. Their conversation got me curious. So I looked over the shoulder of one of the men as he clicked on each photo. 18 photos. 15 photos more than the three first posted by Der Spiegel on March 21. Some of those photos were seriously gruesome. They were photos taken by American soldiers fighting an asymmetric war: Men in uniform fighting against a hodgepodge of insurgents, Taliban, civilian collaborators, tribal chiefs, and all kinds of bounty seekers. Jihad, I learned from a colleague, was a highly profitable business.

Interestingly, what came to my mind as I was looking at these photos was not indignation. All I could think was, "Wow, these guys need some serious psychiatric help." Not a life spent in prison, like what Jeremy Morlock from Wasilla, Alaska got in return for a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify against his co-conspirators; the guys who planned with him to kill civilians for the sake of killing. (If Wasilla rings a bell, it's because this is where Sarah Palin comes from).

Where I live, I see many guys like Jeremy Morlock. Many of them join the military to escape boredom, to get a shot at a better education, to have a future other than the unpromising one awaiting in the town they grew up in. Many of them had no exposure to the world outside their small town. They only know the video games they like to play, the music they like to listen to, the macho blockbusters that play in the local movie theaters, the junk they eat in the fast food restaurants. If you say "Istanbul" to them, they wouldn't even know it is a name of a city.

And then they learn to kill and are sent to a country they didn't know existed until shortly before they got their orders to pack.

What I am trying to say is that someone of a higher rank should have noticed that these guys went off the deep end before they shot the Afghan civilians, before they posed - smiling next to mutilated bodies; whether these bodies belonged to civilians or not. No one smiles at a bloody severed head because it's funny. One does not have to be a trained psychologist to know that laughing at horror is a type of coping mechanism one develops in order to survive the horror.

Some of these 20-something-year-old guys should not have been sent to Afghanistan. I am sure some higher ups knew that they were sending unfit men to war long before all this mess materialized. They took a big chance when they decided to send these guys to war. They should now take responsibility for their mistake and not bury these guys in prison to hide their own bad judgment.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I will try to write something more meaningful on Israel when I get back to the U.S. Until then I am observing my surrounding with unending astonishment.

So much has changed since my last visit. So far, the main shock was speaking Hebrew. Everyone speaks Hebrew in Israel! (and many other languages, but mainly Hebrew). I am not used to speaking Hebrew with total strangers.

For the past 25 years I've been speaking Hebrew only with people I know quite well. So Hebrew signals an intimate experience. Speaking it with strangers feels like a violation of my personal space. I think that was why I had a total meltdown on a bus when I realized how odd it felt to interact with so-called "people on the street."

On Monday I got on a bus at the central bus station in Tel Aviv (mainly because I wanted the experience - it was pre-latest bus stop bombing in Jerusalem so I felt very nonchalant about getting on a bus - still am...) with my daughter going to Allenbi Street. I had no idea how much it costs to go on a bus. So I asked. In Hebrew. And the bus driver UNDERSTOOD me. He didn't even flinch when he said "twelve shekels." I asked if twelve shekels covered one ticket or two. Since my daughter and I were the only people who got on the bus, he probably meant twelve shekels for two tickets, but I didn't get it. I know little about the value of the shekel. So I asked in my very native Hebrew if twelve shekels covered both of us.

The driver very patiently said yes, but I could detect a certain expression on his face: this woman is a little retarded. I fished several coins from my pocket and looked for the place to put them. I had absolutely no idea what to do with the money. I was also not sure whether I had to give exact change because riding a bus in some places entails paying with exact change. So I asked the driver what to do with the money. He looked at me like I fell from the moon and stretched his cupped hand out. I put the coins in his hand and stumbled to my seat. And then I burst out laughing, totally out of control.

It's been quite a while since I've felt that stupid.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I have a biological disorder and it's called "motherhood." I usually see myself as somewhat rational, as someone who tries to act like a responsible parent most of the time, someone who does not plunge into reckless behavior out of nowhere just because it's possible. But when the symptoms of the motherhood disorder kick in, I seem to throw caution to the wind and become a person I don't recognize. I think it has to do with my brain circuits: when the kid seems to be unhappy about something, they start firing in unpredictable directions and I become completely helpless, responding to their commands like a robot, "Fix the problem. Make the kid happy again. Right now."

Maybe evolution intended it to be this way. After all, happy kids make happy parents. But sometimes I am not sure whether this motherhood disorder was meant to upgrade the performance of the human species, or I am simply displaying a unique evolutionary glitch.

Case in point:

Last Saturday, not because I wanted to, I found myself chasing a bus on highway 1 in my little Honda Civic. It was 7:05 AM and I was still in my pajamas, socks and slippers; not your typical car chase attire.

My daughter was sitting next to me, making sure I don't run into a speed trap. Not that I was driving over the speed limit or breaking the law or anything like that... But every time we approached an overpass she would say, "Ima, slow down." So I did. I told here that although I never planned to be chasing a bus on the freeway in my pajamas, I certainly did not plan on getting a speeding ticket.

There's only so much I am ready to sacrifice for her.

You see, my daughter was supposed to be on that bus with the other kids in her science club, going to the Marine Mammal Rescue Center up in Marine County. But the bus left at 6:45 and she told me it was leaving at 7:00.

As soon as I saw that she missed the bus, I knew I was going after that bus. Don't ask me where that decision came from. Maybe it was the expression on her face when she saw she missed the bus. Maybe a need to prove something to myself. I have absolutely no idea. I just knew I had to do something that did not include getting mad at her for screwing up. I told her to call the trip organizer and tell him we were going to try to catch the bus at the next meeting point. Just tell us where it is.

Now, you have to understand that I am not your typical adventure driver. I don't like driving to places I don't know. I like to look at a map before I venture into the unknown. I don't have a GPS or a good sense of direction. But here I was, preparing to catch a bus I knew was traveling over the speed limit, because many times I have seen these big fancy buses galloping by me at 75 mph as if there is no tomorrow. And so it started to dawn on me as soon as I got on the freeway, that this Spielberg horror movie in reverse that was playing in my head, me tough fearless driver mother in pajamas stalking a speeding careless bus, might be a tinny bit over the edge.

My daughter got the directions to the next meeting point, wrote them down and settled in her seat.

Sometimes during the chase I tried to guilt trip her into thanking me for going out of my way, literally, so she could have her field trip as she planned. After all, I was about to be spending an hour and a half on the road only because I wanted to make sure she does not carry her disappointment into adulthood. She, on her part, gave me a typical teenager "thank you" which sounded more like, well, do I need to spell it for you? Let me say only that it didn't make me feel that great about myself. Oh well, I didn't do it to hear her thanking me. I did it because a certain circuit closed or opened in my brain and a certain nerve fired a command to another nerve who reacted promptly and activated the rest of me, ordering me to bring the kid to a meeting point somewhere near the highway so she can have an interesting experience.

I think it was 7:45 when we caught up with the bus. The organizers knew we were not far behind them and agreed to wait for us. When she got out of the car and disappeared into the bus I thanked them for waiting and then added, "My house is going to be so clean next week, and I am not going to lift a finger." They laughed in total approval, making me feel very astute.

Of course, at the moment I didn't know that the kid was going to come back home from her field trip sick, give me whatever virus she had picked up, and spend a week in bed next to me, in total flu misery. I've been cleaning house, making tea, and trying to make her get better for a week now, all the while fighting one of the nastiest bugs I ever let invade my body.

And in spite of all this, I still love her.

It's the motherhood disorder that's responsible for it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

the egyptian intifada

Everyone and his cousin is talking about the events in Egypt as a natural continuation of the Tunisian and the Iranian revolution. But this is not fair. With all respect to the failed Iranian green revolution and the successful Tunisian revolt, we have to give some to the Palestinians who started the trend and also gave us the word "Intifada," - the shakin' off.

Basically, the Palestinian Intifada is not much different from the Egyptian intifada if you look at it from the personal relationship perspective. In both Intifadas, people who lived in a very abusive relationship woke up one day and realized that they could fight back. It's that simple.

Just compare it to any domestic abuse case. Let's say a woman lives with a husband who regularly beats her, humiliates her, ignores her pleas, locks her up, and threatens to kill her if she tries to resist him. We've seen this scenario in countless movies, read about them, studied them, and some of us even lived in these situations, hoping no one would notice our misery.

How many women dare to leave their abusive husbands? How many women dare to even tell their best friends about the abuse? How many women take those husbands back again and again after enduring bruises and cuts and fists and insults with the hope that this time it might work because this time he really promised to change. How many women felt that they simply had no other alternative but to bite the bullet and try to survive the storm? How many woman accepted that they deserved to be treated badly because they didn't have the degree or the connections or the right documents that would allow them to get a job and leave that abusive husband?

What the Egyptians are doing is the natural thing. Anyone who realizes that there is a way out of an abusive relationship would want to take it. And why shouldn't he or she or they take the road to freedom from abuse? For the sake of the kids?

People who are being pushed to their limit of humiliation and hopelessness will always end up fighting back. It's inhuman not to fight back. Sometimes it might take a generation, sometimes two generations. But all it takes is a spark when conditions are ripe.

The Egyptians have been stewing in their paralysis for years. It's about time they come to their own. And instead of blaming the entire world for their misery (like some of our Palestinian friends), they can take action, real action, not fake action like hating Israel, and killing innocent Israeli children, and blaming everyone else for their paralysis and fear.

We all have to come out of our own abyss and reclaim ourselves, take responsibility, and live the life we meant to live. I only hope that what has started in the Middle East will prove all the doom's day prophets wrong.

It's not about the Muslim Brotherhood or another war with Israel. It's about dignity.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Israelis are used to look at things through the prism of "is it good for the Jews or is it bad?" and then decide what they think about it. Since I am also an Israeli my knee-jerk reaction to the latest upheaval in Egypt was thinking how it would affect Israel, was it good or bad for Israel? And since I can be very susceptible to the long-held belief that Israel's peace with her Arab neighbors is very fragile and unrest can quickly dissolve into another bloody war, I was leaning toward the thought that maybe this wave of discontent is not the best thing in the world. But then I thought, screw it, that's totally the wrong way to look at it. So I started looking at the pictures coming from the streets of Egypt and realized that what caught my eyes were not the pictures of riot police blocking protesters or the fires burning in Cairo or people carrying the wounded with terrified expressions on their faces, but the women. I was looking for the women. And I saw one picture of a young woman in jeans and a long sleeve sweater waving her arm in the air and shouting in anger; then I saw a picture of an older woman in a head scarf kissing a young bewildered green eyed policeman, and I was sold on the Egyptian revolution.

Egypt gave us one of the most amazing feminists in the world. Huda Shaarawi who came out of the harem and fought for women rights in 1920s Egypt, no less. She was the first to take off the veil and fight against the seclusion of women. Today, when I see the women of Egypt go to the streets along their male counterparts and demand their rights to free elections and free speech, all I can think of is Huda Shaarawi. I only hope that the women of Egypt will not fall into the trap women in Algeria fell during their fight for independence when they donned the veil as their symbol of freedom. I hope Egyptian women are smarter than that.

In Hebrew we call Egypt Mitzrayim. I come in contact with Mitzrayim once a year on the first night of passover when I pretend to read the Hagadda with my friends before we give up and go for the food. In Hebrew Mitzrayim means "straits" מצר or "narrow" צר or "trouble" צרה. In the context of Passover it can mean the literal story in which the children of Israel walked through the narrow straits of whatever hurdle they had to cross in their flight from their enslavers. For those of us who don't take the bible literally but as a literary text, it means a spiritual or emotional rebirth. After all, even an abstract birth canal can feel like a narrow strait.

The latest struggle of the Egyptian protesters is no different from the struggle of the children of Israel which we find in the Jewish Bible. Egypt has finally arrived at its breaking point, facing its own bottle neck, its own birth canal. The army and the police can suppress the movement with brute force, but not for long. Once the gini is out of the bottle it is very hard to shove it back in. The amazing discontent that has been unleashed on the streets of Egypt will be very hard to squash and silence, not in this evolving world of social media and constant agitation by AlJazeera. And bear in mind, Egypt lies right across from Europe, not buried deep in the Middle East like Iran or Yemen.

I think it's about time for the Egyptians to cross their narrow straits and come out free on the other side. I only hope they don't forget Huda Shaarawi when they claim their victory.

Monday, January 17, 2011

road kill

I drive more than 10,000 miles a year. Most of my driving is done in town, to work, to the grocery store, to my daughter's school, and to all kinds of extra-curricular activities. In the mornings, as I drive on highway 1 to work, the sun rises on the passenger's side, the ocean stretches on my left. It's a short drive I cherish every single time because the view is spectacular. Every morning the sunrise entertains me with different shapes of clouds and shades of blue and orange and yellow, the ocean tide performs a different dance of white caps above deep blues and grays and silver all the way to the horizon, and the skyline of the distant mountains shimmers in the morning haze.

And then I see the road kill.

Sometimes it's a squirrel, sometimes a raccoon. Here and there I see a skunk, a seagull, a snake or a lizard. Dogs and cats are rather rare on highways, but they don't escape the fate of their undomesticated peers. Death by a moving car is an equal opportunity provider. Wrong place, wrong time, unlucky move. Bang. Done and over with.

I hate to see these mutilated leftovers on the side of the road. Sometimes lying in the middle of the road. Especially in the morning hours. So many times I see something splashed beyond recognition on the asphalt. Was it a squirrel, a cat, a raccoon? I can't tell. Too many cars have already driven over it, it became a part of the pavement. Almost.

Many times I call animal control and ask them to come and pick up the dead, especially if the road kill lies in the middle of the road. That way even the vultures and the coyotes can't get to them, and the cars keep passing by as if these creatures had not walked the earth just a short while ago. I have the phone number of the animal control people on my automatic dial. I think it is the least I can do for these creatures. Give them some respect. It's not their fault we need to get places too fast to lean on the brakes when they manifest themselves in front of us, totally oblivious to the fact that a car is rushing full-speed toward them.

This evening as I was driving toward Monterey on highway 1, I saw on the side of the road a car lying on its roof in the grass. Just like that. As if someone had picked it up and turned it over. A police patrol car was parked next to it. A tow truck was parked on the other side. It was getting dark and the fog was very thick, hiding the damage done to that car. There were no emergency vehicles on the side of the road and the traffic was moving smoothly, so I assumed the accident had happened quite a while ago. I don't know what happened to the people who were in that car and I don't really want to think about it.

I only hope they did not become road kill like the skunk I spotted earlier when I was driving out of town.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

online dating

A friend of mine has recently asked me about online dating. She's never done it, she confessed, as she became a single mom only recently, and now she finds herself being pushed to try it by well-meaning friends. So I gave her some advice... Me, the online dating loser. I only hope I don’t make myself look totally pathetic, which is how I feel every time I succumb to the temptation of joining an online dating site. But I am jumping ahead of myself.

Here's a summary: Online dating sucks!!!
I once discovered a funny-sad blog written by a single father who answers to the name of David Mott. The man listed all kinds of online dating disasters he experienced. I read his stories with the notion of "know thy enemy," because this dad offered the male perspective. And let me tell you, it felt good to see that men, too, suffer when they venture into cyberspace to find true love.

Those who believe in online dating will tell you many success stories. I've heard some, too. I know people who met on these sites, got married, had children, and lived happily ever after to tell about it. But it's just like the lottery. There are so many more losers than winners.

So here I am, an online dating loser, telling an online dating virgin the do's and don'ts of this endeavor; something that most busy people don’t need to know, because why should anyone bother to learn that stuff. I'd rather learn to change the brake pedals on my car than how to upload a personal profile on a dating site or flirt online with total strangers.

My friend said she didn't want people to know that she was on a dating website. I told her that she didn't have to upload a photo, but then men would assume that she was ugly or married. She was horrified to find out that married women go online to look for adventure. She thought only men were capable of cheating. I was tempted to tell her that scientists using NASA equipment orbiting Mars found ice deposits on the red planet and it was time to wake up and smell the century she was living in.

After I gently brought her back to reality, I told her that most men first look at the photo and next, if you have enough boobs or legs or an enticing smile, they might check your height and weight, if the site asks for it. Of course, no one tells the truth about their weight. Some men write "athletic" if they weigh only 50 pounds above their recommended weight, otherwise they write "slender." Some will not upload their own photo if they have a slender nephew or cousin. Some uploaders will not even be men. Yet.
I was not sure what to say about age. My friend was convinced that all men were interested in twenty somethings. But that’s not true. Many men provide flexible age limits when it comes to women. Which is curious. They write that they will date women ages 18 to 59. And I'm like, "OK... humm... how do you do that? I'll date my daughter or my mother, doesn't matter. I can talk to both. Or maybe, I don't need to talk... I can make her happy... Because I'm so great."
Yup, that's what you're about to deal with, sweetie.
My friend was concerned about what to include in her profile. I suggested that she doesn't put too much information. It's not like you need to explain everything before you meet the guy. All you have to do is provide a blurb, a bait, just get noticed because without a picture it's a bit hard to get attention since men are visual animals, not too cerebral when it comes to women. But she doesn't want to mislead anyone, she said. Bless her heart. The innocence of online dating virgins is heartbreaking.
Here's something I tried once when the muse landed on me and I felt reckless and full of renewed hope. After explaining in three sentences the type of person I think I am, I added "looking for similar," to be completely clear. Underneath, I provided a couple of examples of what I considered similar. One of the examples was: "If you can talk in full sentences–that's similar."
I can't recall the number of "hi" responses I received. So I'm asking you, since when "hi" is a sentence? I thought sentences were supposed to have a verb in them.

After I gave my friend a few other tips, I told one of my more outrageous online dating escapades. Only to illustrate to her what a bad judge of character I am. Something an online dater should NEVER be under ANY circumstances.
You see, if a guy tells you that in his youth he lived under a bridge and spent time in prison for stealing cars to support his meth habit, you might want to consider not seeing him again. Even if he explains that he was self-medicating to manage his ADHD because his parents, the famous actors, barely noticed he existed. You should still not give him a pass just because he tells you about the rabbi who got him out of prison and into a halfway house where he could kick the habit, just to convince you that he is Jewish. Or after he shows you a copy of his latest blood test results to reassure you that he no longer has hepatitis B. You should just leave. But no, you think this is cool, because the guy has some fascinating stories to tell and he is not a bad writer and he becomes borderline funny after he smokes a few joints. And then you discover that he is into S&M when one day he asks you to take a photo of his back, and when he lifts his shirt you see blue bruises and bloody lines carved by whip lashes crisscrossing his tattooed back, and only then, finally, your brain kicks in, and you realize that if you don’t pretty much evaporate to a different dimension at this very moment, you will have to expect some serious intervention from those who care about you.

So if you give in to your pushy friends who think they are being helpful by telling you to go look for Prince Charming on the internet, make sure you know what’s you’re doing. Otherwise, do yourself a favor. Don’t upload a sexy photo of yourself, don’t share the story of your life and your real or imaginary body measurements with voyeurs, don’t respond to anonymous “hi’s” and don’t believe everything that people tell you .Use your computer and your brain for more productive undertakings. It will save you time and some embarrassment. Or, you might end up like me, with stories to tell and some thinking to do. But if you are not a writer, or me, you really don’t need this type of skeletons in your closet.