Wednesday, November 23, 2011

IPad woes

I haven't figured out how to use the IPad properly for blog posting. Even though the drafts I've written look OK..when posted, the text turns into one long paragraph. Hiccups repaired in the draft appear as intact hiccups in the posted text...capitalization etc. I'm hesitant enough about publishing my scribbles...mortified by the IPad end result. I love having the thing with me to read and answer my email, watch TED lectures during airport waits and for reading, currently Damascus Gate by Robert Stone. I intended to attend an Apple class but they are few and far between.. they fill up almost immediately. Has anyone used an online tutorial which might be helpful?

As I carp about these inconveniences, I remember how it used to be "on the road". Carrying your cash around in one of those hideous money belts. In all my old travel photos my measurements were 32-36-32...the 36 dwindling to 35 then to 34 as the travel moved forward and the money was spent. Writing letters to make hotel reservations and waiting weeks sometimes for confirmations. Paper airline tickets with 14 copies of everything..lose it and you were dead. There's an ATM right across the street here and they've never been more than a block away from anywhere. I can carry a couple of hundred shekels around and of course use the credit card for almost everything.

Last time we were in Bali (last December) ATM's had appeared everywhere and are even air conditioned. At the Denpasar airport home to perhaps 30 Indian change makers notorious for giving out incorrect change, a row of gleaming machines replaced the dimly lit row of cubicles I used to shudder to approach.

The only real shuddering we've done here is with the taxi drivers. Most we've had have tried to cheat us....they forget to turn on the meter and half-way through the ride start negotiating the fare; they give incorrect change; they take the longest possible route if you're on the meter. I read about these practices before we arrived but didn't quite believe it but after 4 or 5 incidents I'm convinced. They view a fare as a wallet attached to a person with the emphasis on wallet.They employ every means possible to empty that wallet before you're out of the cab. This is the last ugly run-on post...we're catching a plane tonight/tomorrow morning and returning to the luxuriously, deliciously large keyboard and monitor.

Monday, November 21, 2011


After a dozen days of running at top tourist speed from thing to thing, we've settled into a small apartment in Jerusalem in the German Colony. Great location steps from restaurants and shops. We're regrouping - taking inventory of what we have left as you can get almost anything in this neighborhood. And what we should replace, if anything, before going home.

Richard lost his great Tilley hat at the Dead Sea Scrolls museum..not a bad place to lose a hat. Tilley actually replaces lost hats, or so they claim. How they can do this is beyond me. Certainly for their own protection they should have an upper age limit on the purchasers. My black shoes are gone..I think I left them in the first's hard to lose shoes while you're actually wearing them, although when you see a pair sitting in the street, you wonder if somebody didn't miss them. As we're flying back to the bay area on Thursday and going directly to Thanksgiving dinner, I'll have to wear sandals or sneakers to the event. There are larger problems in the world. I'll be giving thanks that I have any shoes at all to wear.

The toothpaste is gone and we're tired of arguing over who didn't check the bathroom, so I can't say who should get the demerit. An essential, we'll have to buy a small tube. Toothpaste is easy to identify, no matter the fact world-wide now, it seems to be all Colgate. No "Darkie" toothpaste left....that was a brand that used to be sold in had a cartoonish logo of broadly smiling black man.. If still on the market, it's had a name change to "Darlie" in response to the complaints about the racial stereotyping.

All of our underwear will be trashed as we leave. We bought a package of laundry soap and the label info was all in Hebrew. The only English stated that it was for colors. Our freshly washed laundry is all grey. I think we bought a bleach for colors. The suitcases will be a little lighter.

Our Insight guide is gone along with our insight, I guess. Most of the beds we've gotten are singles pushed together. A crack develops between the two, widening as you toss and turn; as we've been reading the guide, while exhausted and in bed,no doubt it slipped between the cracks,literally, and disappeared into the maw of dust bunnies and other people's lost items. This year has been a stay-at-home year for us and I can only hope we've gotten a little rusty on the travel routine due to lack of practice and will get our act together sometime soon. We still have our passports and shekels, at least for now.

Surviving the Holy Sepulchre

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem chaos reigns. The territory is carved up into tiny chunks owned by various religious groups and sub groups. Supposedly it is the site of Jesus' crucifixion but most evidence points to the fact that this site along with many other famous Christian sites were selected by various officials and groups in response to pilgrim's need for a substantial physical spot to embrace, visit, worship at. The Franciscans were particularly sensitive to this and cooked up the stations of the cross for instance and the rosary, a kind of portable prayer of course was wildly popular and continues to be so. People buy them here by the dozen to take home.

As we entered the church and our eyes adjusted to the gloom we could see the mobs and mobs of people. As I got my bearings a huge Greek Orthodox priest pushed by me almost knocking me over swinging his incense salver in front of him and literally pushing people over as I suppose he was trying to accomplish his round of prayer and sanctification. I'm surely not the only one of the collaterally damaged who cursed the brute. This piece of real estate is so highly contested that the presiding clergy break into actual fights from time to time. Each group's territorial jurisdiction seems to hang by a thread. It's so bad that the church is falling into ruin because to implement repairs cooperation between the smoldering factions would be required.

Symbolic of the whole mess is a ladder that has been resting against one of the walls for a century and a half...some say it was used to deliver food while one of the groups was under siege..another story is that some brave soul was going to attempt a repair but found the procedure to be even more complicated than the San Diego Building department and gave up. Even removing the ladder is impossible. We felt grateful to get out of there with only minor injuries.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A fat cat in Tel Aviv

The beautiful fat cat was sitting on the restaurant windowsill watching us as we picked our way along the rainslick street. Richard chucked him under the chin and the cat looked me up and down in a sideways glance. I could tell he didn't think much of me...they never do until the scraps start falling on the floor.

We got settled inside, ordered a couple of glasses of wine and noticed the party across from us near the windows, was smoking away. The cat moved over to the smoker's window and sat there staring in. Soon one of the smokers cracked the window and the cat's paw was in like a flash. The paw groped around aimlessly for a minute or so and then started to stretch and stretch and stretch. The smoker's ignored the cat gymnastics while Richard and I were laughing loud and hard. The cat didn't actually hook anything and withdrew his paw,looked at it and started to groom himself as embarrassed cats are wont to do. Another few minutes passed and one of the smokers cracked the window slightly more. incredibly quickly the cat flattened himself sideways and squeeZed in leaping over the smokers (who barely noticed...they were French and tres chic) and immediately began sucking up bits from the floor which he had quite obviously GPS'ed while he was outdoors peering in through the windows.

It was all too slick. We decided the whole scene was planned by the cat...he knew that smokers would open a window and chose his spot strategically. Not only that,but he had me pegged as a soft touch from the earlier assessment and didn't waste any time sucking up to the French or the other sophisticates. Straight over to our table and he went into a routine you wouldn't believe, purring, rubbing, rolling around. If the cat pulled out a "nose and glasses" I wouldn't have been surprised. He scored big time at our table and moved along when he saw the plates were empty. Oh he left us laughing but I felt cheap and used when he was done with us. Love 'em and leave 'em....that's the way it goes in the cat racket here in Tel Aviv.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Idiot's Guide

I aspired above my grade level by purchasing "The Complete Idiot's guide to Jewish History and Culture". It occurred to me that there might be a market for a version even simpler, for those like me, so handicapped they couldn't complete such a tome. But no - an idiot is the bottom of the IQ barrel - on some old psychology scales indicating an IQ of from 0-25 while an imbecile was rated at 26-50 and a moron, the top of this sad heap, at 51-70. From a classical marketing standpoint the Idiot's Guides should have been a total failure  - as little chance for success as would be the "Impotent Man's Guide to Sex".  Not so. Apparently we have no problem on the whole admitting we are idiots. The guides have been a roaring success from the get-go.

We're leaving for Tel Aviv tomorrow and I'm only halfway through the complete guide - ergo, a half-finished idiot. Those of us in the food business would say "half-baked idiot".  Summarizing the summary of the summaries, there are really only 198 bullet-point essentials I'm hoping to get through while it's raining.

The last Idiot's Guide I read was for the Civil War. Not bad. Illuminated much about Gettysburg. The Jewish History and Culture guide is written by a rabbi with a great sense of humor. Of course, there's endless material to work with and a host of Jewish comics to quote. Keeps the text lively.

We're doing the usual tourist route: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Galilee, Golan Heights, Caesarea, Tiberias,  Masada, Haifa.  We rented a small apartment in Jerusalem where we'll spend the most time. Stretching ourselves too thin as always we're arriving back to SFO on Thanksgiving day where we'll rent a car and drive to our nieces in Orinda for the annual family Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Enough Space

Who hasn't been thinking about population density as the news blared about person number 7 billion entering the world yesterday? How crowded are we going to be with the next billion coming on in a scant fourteen years?

Where we've moved - to the avocado grove in De Luz, we have a lot of room and I've been enjoying both the quiet and the space. While landscaping the new planting beds, we've liberated many plants from the tiny cramped pots they've been stuck in, some for a couple of years.  Frequently as they're eased out of their little homes, you see roots curled round and round, back on themselves, reaching to the surface and then diving back down into the dirt. I almost heard the lilies sigh the other day when we moved them to nice large holes where they can wiggle around and stretch.

A book about crowding I've never forgotten is John Hersey's "My Petition for More Space".  Personally I have a touch of claustrophobia and have felt something akin to "line sickness" when stuck on the freeway in a jam.  Seems like a great time to read this wonderfully imaginative tale again.

"Try to imagine a book that mostly takes place in a waiting line. Hersey does it with this marvelous tale. It is the near future, when couples have to apply to have a child, and are allowed only one. (Patriotic teen males can agree to get a vasectomy.) Personal space for individuals is limited to an 8x12-foot painted square in a large warehouse dorm, and the only area in New Haven with grass and trees is walled off -- the mayor gets to mow it but others can only look at it through a window after waiting long hours in line. Thirty-seven-year-old Sam Poynter, who writes reports and is getting divorced, is in a line, four abreast, to get to the petition windows where he will ask the authorities for the unheard-of favor of a slightly larger living space. Crushed around him are people petitioning for more protein, to change their residence or job, to get Havana cigars, to have a child. An elderly woman is petitioning to have her dear grandson not to be taught to read, so he can learn something more useful. Moving a block every 15-20 minutes for several hours, Sam grows to like some of the strangers around him (especially the young blonde in the blue dress against whom he is pressed from behind, who seems to respond to his verbal and physical overtures) and dislikes others. A woman faints and is passed over heads; several people suffer "line sickness" and go screaming mad. An unhappy gent starts up a chant to get Sam thrown out of line. Like Hersey's earlier science fiction novel, _The Child Buyer_, this 1974 story wraps considerable humor within a chilling and depressing overcoat."
David Loftus, Resident Scholar