Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Hike, Part I of a indeterminate number

FRIDAY

Today, I spent two hours at the mall searching for functional yet attractive hiking gear. Several hundred shekels later, I am sorted. I then proceed home, where my next task is to design my outfit. Which t-shirt to pair with the shorts for the water hike? Maybe my shirt from the Alyn bike ride? So people will think I am sporty? Oh…but that shirt is so baggy! Not flattering at all! No, no. It has to be closer fitting…. Perhaps I should go sleeveless? No—am sure to get burned to a crisp if I do. And besides, my upper arms are still on the flabby side. And what hat? Or perhaps I should wear one of my sports bandanas?

I finally come up with two outfits, one for the water hike and one for the gentle walk hike. For the water hike I am going to wear knit, bermuda-length red shorts, a close-fitting, cut up t-shirt from Croatia and a sports bandanna. For the gentle walk hike, I am going to wear tan, long shorts (? is that the technical term here) from Golf, paired with a fitted blue t-shirt and a straw hat from Eddie Bauer. Kind of a faux-explorer type look, you know?

Am I the only one who ended up spending THREE HOURS sorting out outfits for a one-day hike? With people I do not even fucking know? Please tell me that I am not.

At least I did not bring makeup.

SATURDAY

07:15 AM Just realized that even though I brought my MP3 player and the USB charger and the thingy so I could use the USB charger with a normal outlet (which does not seem to work, but brought, just in case it MIGHT work) AND I even charged the MP3 player off of Ellie’s computer, yesterday…I did not bring the headphones. Not a good sign, this.

7:40 AM I have dumped my extra stuff in my car and am walking to the pick-up point. I planned on buying coffee en route but…WTF? Café Café is not open yet? Café Henrietta is not open yet? Café Hillel went kosher and is closed for Shabbat??? Hello!!! Tel Aviv! עיר ללא הפסקה (a city that never stops) my ass. If you guys want to compare yourself to Manhattan, or even DC—first things first—coffee houses open at six. If not earlier. EVERY day.

This tiyul had better include coffee breaks, or I am going to die.

8:00 AM Found the bus. Getting on feels rather like the first day at a new school. But worse. Everyone was giving me the once over. The women appear to be particularly hostile. This is a serious business, I see.

But good news! I am not the grandma! I am also not the fattest.

08:15 AM Gal, the trip organizer, is making announcements. There will be a coffee stop. Thank G-d.

Decision. If anyone asks why I am writing, I will introduce myself as a blogger.

And then everyone will think I am cool.

08:25 AM Break out the book? Hmmm…what would friends say? Right. Book stays in bag.

08:40 AM Every few minutes, we hit another collection point. The bus is slowly but surely filling up. Have had one conversation. Erez, a friendly guy from Petach Tikvah.

08:45 AM Just passed a wall with coffee cups painted on it. G-d is taunting me. Bastard.

09:15 AM Another woman, Liya, has joined my and Erez’s conversation. We are discussing internet dating.

EDUCATIONAL MOMENT

Courtesy of Liya


האם את ספונטנית? Are you spontaneous?

I always thought that this question—which I get now and again from guys off of dating websites—is a sign of laziness. A sign of a guy who cannot pull himself together and cannot manage a schedule enough to manage calling one up in advance and setting a proper date. Asking ‘are you spontaneous’ is his way of finding out whether or not you are the type that is accommodating of such character traits. Which I am not. At all.

Liya set me straight.

Liya: No, no—‘are you spontaneous’ has nothing to do with spontaneity. What it means is ‘do you want to meet for sex right now?’

Me: But… I thought ‘do you want a cup of coffee’ means ‘do you want to meet for sex right now’.

Liya: It does. But so does ‘are you spontaneous’.

Erez confirms Liya’s translation. Wow. Who knew? Well, apparently, Liya. And most likely everyone else on the planet but me. No wonder I get so little action.

09:45 AM Stopped at ArcCafé. One humongous coffee and a Roxie-friendly salad later, and I am ready to roll. At Liya’s suggestion, I also buy a sandwich. Because while I remembered to bring: water, sunscreen, a hat, water shoes, a change of clothes, my MP3 player, a notebook, a pen, an extra pen in case the first dies, another extra pen in case the first two die, Sarah’s camera, a book, extra glasses in case something happens to the pair I am wearing and earplugs…I forgot to bring lunch.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I know I have to write about the hike. And I am going to write about the hike. But right now, I am cleaning, see? My house is vile. Because I was not here this weekend, and did not clean it. And because I did not clean it last weekend either, even though I was here. Because I was busy varnishing my table. And because I loathe cleaning. As does, apparently, the Urge. But today, Shimon the Kablan came today to take out the radiators which eat up so much wall space and he and his crew of four saw my dirty, dirty house. How embarrassing! And Tuesday, they are coming back, to spackle and plaster the bits now radiator-free wall and paint over them. It must be clean! Because G-d forbid that Shimon and his crew, who I have never met and am not likely to meet again, think I am a poor housekeeper.

So I am cleaning. Mind you, I do not have time to clean everything. Because I keep on stopping to surf the net. Which eats up much time. So, I am cleaning the bits he and his crew are likely to see. The shower? Not so likely. The bathroom sink? Men never notice such things. That can stay all gross for another day or two. The floor, the kitchen counter and the coffee table, however, are just OUT there. So they have been cleaned.

Incidentally, these are also the bits of house that will require cleaning, after the work on my walls is done.

Sometimes, I am not so smart.

Friday, August 21, 2009

אני פשוט בהלם

You know it is bad when even your closest friends refuse to listen to you whine. It used to be just my life-coach* who would brush off my moans about my non-existent love life with a "that is because you are not doing anything about it". Now even my closest friends have gotten into it and brush off my complaints with a "I do not want to hear it". I am seen as One Who Has Brought This on Herself. As One Who Refuses to Even Try.

There is, admittedly, some truth to this.

I hate blind dating.
I hate singles events, and in particular those in Jerusalem.
I hate loud parties.
I hate bars.
I have given up on the dating websites.
My idea of expanding myself socially consists of stuff like joining Safranit's Stitch n' Bitch group.

So, yes, my friends have a point. I admit it. I know I should do more. Fine, I do not sell well on the dating websites and I do not like bars and parties or other loud events, but there are activities I do enjoy that would provide me with ample opportunities to meet new people, including those of the single male variety. I can go on Mosaic or SPNI hikes. I could sign up for Groopy bike rides. I could take swing dancing lessons in Tel Aviv. I could take a cooking course. Do these activities not sound like lots of fun? Indeed, they do! Even Roxie approves--though not so much of the cooking course. And I really and truly have been meaning to do all of these things, but somehow I just don't.

So, no. I am not trying.

But it is not really my fault, you see. All of these activities....they all require work, yes? Work and effort. For instance, I may have to get up early. And prepare stuff. And put the stuff in my knapsack. And drive somewhere. Perhaps even with my bike loaded on my car. (That alone takes AT LEAST fifteen minutes). And get to where I am going on time. And some of these events take a whole day. Or even a whole weekend! During which I cannot do the other things that I mean to do, but probably will not do.

Really...it is all just so....exhausting. Even thinking about it tires me.

Whatever. In short, all of these activities, require me to get the fuck out of my living room. Which is, thanks to my squishy couches and my blue accent table, even more attractive a place to be. In fact and in appearance, man!**

Recently, I determined I had to make a change. As you might imagine, one of my more outspoken friends was involved in the decision-making process. No matter. I resolved that I was going to sign up for an event. And, barring death or serious illness, I was not going to cancel. I was going to go on that event. The only question was what.

Look4Love is one of the dating websites I am registered with. The site regularly puts together events for members. Every so often, I receive an email from Gal, the site owner, describing upcoming events. Unlike Jdate events, which tend to sound vile AND be hideously pricey (a'la: You too can come spend a week trapped on a cruise ship with 100's of other desperate singles!), these events sound like...fun. Yes, there are the standard hideous parties, but there are also normal, Israeli-style hikes. And pool parties. And cool shit like that. And reasonable prices.

Anyway, shortly after I (or rather, my friend) decreed that my slug period was going to end on or before August 20, 2009, I received yet another email from Gal, advertising three events. "זה משמיים!" I thought to myself. This is a sign from G-d. "Yahala--sign up". And after a false start in which I registered for an event which was scheduled to take place the same night as my couch-warming party, I am signed up for a hike. For tomorrow. And what is more, this afternoon I am going to Tel Aviv. I will stay with Ellie-oise. I will be away from my house and my couches a full 36 hours.

This is enormous. My friends are impressed. Gila is actually doing something!

And I am not cancelling. Even though I want to. All week, I have wanted to. This is why.

1) I do not know anyone on the hike. I would ask a friend to go, but the hike is on Shabbat and most of my friends are shomrei Shabbat...so that is not going to happen. ***

2) I will be with this group ALL DAY.

3) What if they do not like me?

4) What if I do not like them?

5) What if I am the oldest woman on the hike? And all of the other women are years younger and a zillion times better looking?

6) It involves my spending most of my weekend away from home. And not doing the various things I should be doing. Which, admittedly, I might not have done even if I were here. But it is the principle that counts.

7) It is just SO much easier to do nothing.

I. Am. Not. Canceling.

Yesterday was awful. I spent a good chunk of the day with my belly in a knot. "Nu, די כבר," my belly told me. Enough already. "You know you do not want to do this. How can it possibly be good for you to do something you do not want to do?" I had to admit that my belly was making a lot of sense. Why not bail on the hike? And then I could go to a local Katamon Konnections kiddush. Or rather, I could plan on going and then not go. Because I loathe singles events, and in particular Jerusalem ones. No matter--cancelling would open up such a range of possibilities.

I decided to call Kayla to discuss this.

Kayla: It will be fun!

Me: But I do not know anyone.

Kayla: You will meet them. Besides, that is the great thing about hiking. You do not have to talk all the time.

Me: But it is ALL DAY.

Kayla: So?

Me: And what if it is terrible?

Kayla: So you write about it on your blog.

Me: (general whiney sounds)

Kayla: Listen, you will have your MP3 player with you. You can listen to that. You will be fine.

Me: (in a small voice) And...and I am bringing a notebook and a pen with me. So I can write, if it is really awful. And Sarah is lending me her digital camera. So I can take pictures.

Kayla: There, you see? It will be fine. And I guarantee you--on the way back, everyone will be sleeping.

Me: But my stomach hurts!

Kayla: That is because you are getting out of your comfort zone. This is good for you. You have to do this.

Me: oooooohhhhkkkkkaaay.....

Okay. I am doing this.



* Highly recommended! I was in a professional/personal rut a few years ago and she really helped me get out of it.

**Accountants--get it???? Fact and appearance??? HILARIOUS! I kill myself, really I do.

***Can a hike scheduled for Shabbat really be considered to be m'shamayim? Discuss.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An Urge

Last Saturday, I got an urge.

Do allow me to explain. As is my wont, this will take a bit of time. First, background. Three weeks ago, at long last, I bought couches. And not just any couches. Expensive, squishy leather couches. In a lovely shade of …ochre? Whatever—a really nice, warm brown with a bit of orange in it. So they were delivered to my apartment and I played musical furniture—turned my TV stand into a coffee table and my night table into a TV stand (which is what it used to be before it was a night table) and my ratty plastic shelves into a night table (which is what they used to be before they were my coffee table). And voila! I was set— couches and tables and stands in all the right places.

But then…disaster struck. The coffee table? It is not so nice. It is from Ikea. It is unfinished pine wood. It just…well…you know…it just does not go with my luxurious squishy couches. It is …oh…what word am I looking for? Ugly? So then I thought to myself "Remember that gorgeous blue set of drawers at Mia the Ima's? Why don't you paint your table blue? Then it will be an accent piece. Think how nice and stylish that would be! People will come and comment on your gorgeous table and wherever did you get it you will be able to say 'oh, that? Picked it up at Ikea and painted it'. Like, instead of being a boring accountant you will be this sophisticated, cool type that buys furniture and then refinishes it and shit. And who has an accent piece in her living room."

I liked this idea so much that I immediately called my friends to tell them about it. Sadly, I am famous for starting projects and never finishing them or meaning to start projects and never starting them. There are the two half-done baby blankets that I started when friend's babies were born, three years ago. There are the lovely blue wine bottles that have been sitting on my counter for the last six months, waiting for me to remove the labels and turn them into water bottles. There are the various beads and nylon thread that I have carting around with me for the last 20 years, for when I learn to make beaded jewelry. Best of all, there is the beautiful painting of a hamsa that I started eight years ago, when I made aliyah, and still have not finished. When I was injured, this painting of mine was a point of some melodrama. Would I ever see well enough to finish it? Once my vision was back, I thought about finishing the painting and then donating rights to the picture to Hadassah. They could sell prints, to raise money for the wonderful hospital that saved my eyesight. Seven years later, vision is fine, painting is still not finished. I am so pathetic.

So anyway, I am telling everyone about my plan to paint my table and everyone knew KNEW that this table was never going to be painted blue. Even I knew that this table was never going to be painted blue. I would plan on painting it blue. The table would plan on becoming blue. But it would never actually be blue.

Except, now it is blue.

Two weeks ago, I went to the friendly neighborhood paint store. I was completely overwhelmed, and left. A few days later, I went back to the store. "This time" I told myself "you are not leaving without paint". I chose my color—a tasteful, muted blue-breen. I bought a paintbrush. I bought sandpaper. I brought everything home. Everything was in place for me to put the supplies aside and intend to get around to painting for a couple years. I was content. Life was good.

But then, two days later, as I said, I got this urge. "Go paint the table" Urge ordered. Like a zombie, I pulled out the table and the paint. Urge screamed at me "No! Imbecile! Do it כמו שצריך! Properly! Sand it first!" So I dragged the whole thing outside. And I sanded it. And then I dragged it back in and painted it. And then I dragged it back outside and sanded it again. And dragged it back it and painted it again. And at the end of the day, I had a blue table. Of course, the tasteful, muted blue-green turned out to be a not-so-tasteful, extremely loud shade of turquoise. But no matter—the table was blue. I was happy. Table was happy. Urge had also forced me to finally took time to go through and get rid of nearly all of my cassettes as sophisticates with accent pieces do not have several hundred cassettes lying around their living rooms). So now my friends were happy too. They do so like to see me enter the twenty-first century.

Urge, however, was not yet happy. Yesterday, I had to go back and buy varnish and last night—yes, the same day— I started applying coats of varnish, a task I continued today. I even called my boss to ask if it would be okay if I give him a report a day late so I would not have to work on Saturday. So I would have time to varnish and sand and varnish some more. And clean my squishy couches. And dust. And finish a crocheting project (not the blankets—a shawl. But still!) And cook lots of Roxie-friendly nutritious food. And turn those goddamned bottles into water bottles.

As of this writing, so far as I know, until Urge informs me otherwise, the table is done. I got lucky—the varnish which was supposed to be 'clear' in reality was a 'light yellow-brown'. I applied it anyway—and it knocked a few shades of the turquoise. Now that the table is squared away, I am curious to see how Urge feels about the 12 skeins of yarn I bought from Livya yarns so I can make a nice, fluffy afgan for my squishy couch. Right now, they are resting peacefully in my yarn basket. Will they stay there? Or will Urge rear its taskmaster head again? Time will tell.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Very Special Treat for Members of the IACPA

Shortly after my phone call to the Lishkat Roai Heshbon, I received an invitation to a seminar on a finance-related subject. The subject was interesting and relevant. Even more important, the seminar would give me four hours of CPE! For free! And lunch! Not an opportunity to be missed, this. I signed right up.

Theoretically, this seminar could also serve as a good time to network. However my response to large crowds of people I do not know is to wander around aimlessly, preferably with a cup of coffee in hand, trying to look as though, really, I am enjoying myself immensely when in fact I am desperately awaiting for whatever it is to be over. As much as I might like to pretend to myself that in attending this seminar I would be developing valuable professional connections, in my heart of hearts, I knew that that networking was just not going to happen. I would have to be satisfied with the CPE and lunch.

Indeed, apart from the aforementioned networking component, I enjoyed the seminar. The presentations were interesting. The subject matter was useful. The food (shockingly) was good. (Roxie was not too happy about this). They even had real coffee*, to make my "networking" meanderings more pleasant. And, best of all, for my entertainment, they had photographers.

LOTS of photographers. Photographing us oh-so-stylin' accountants and lawyers. Demographics=mostly men, lots of nebbishy looking ones and fair percentage of middle-aged. As is my wont, I sat in the front row, immediately in front of the podium. Even with my hearing aid, these types of events can be a challenge. I like to maximize my chances of actually hearing what is going on. Unfortunately, every few minutes, my view would be blocked by some intrepid photographer dashing in to grab a shot of the speaker as he made a particularly impressive point or a joke. The last portion of the seminar was a roundtable made up of a lawyer, a finance guy and about five hi-tech guys (looked about the same as us accountants, if you catch my drift). The effect on the photographers was not unlike hot oil on popcorn kernels. Photographers were bouncing up and down all around the podium. Look! That one is speaking-grab that shot! And he is smiling and looking interested. And…oh—GREAT pensive look—hold it baby, yes-BEAUTIFUL!

Bet THAT is a good photo spread. Wow. The readers of Lishkat newsletter are going to get a great read this month.

Seriously—why? Why? That is all I want to know.

*For those overseas, the standard at these events is instant coffee. Generally one finds the Nescafe powder (vile) but sometimes, if it is a higher end sort of place, the Elite Red Mug freeze dried stuff (also vile, but not quite as much). The same is true of most workplaces, though the more magnanimous employers will splurge on Tasters Choice. Me—I keep a French press and a supply of ground coffee at the office. My klitah (absorption into Israeli society) only goes so far, you know?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Verbal Typos*

The Scene:
A large, well-appointed Shabbat dinner at the home of an observant Jewish couple in Jerusalem. Sixteen people are seated around a table, eating. Apart from one person who is speaking, the room is quiet.

The Characters:
Host, a respected author who writes about religious topics and who is a regular lecturer at Aish Hatorah.

Hostess, an equally respected journalist and activist.

Guests which include: a local builder; a US biochemist in Israel on vacation; a US Jewish educator in Israel on a study fellowship; the rabbi of a large and prestigious US congregation and his wife (also an educator); the executive director of the Hadassah Organization's office in Israel; the Host and Hostesses' ultra-orthodox daughter and her husband and an Modern Orthodox couple with their three young, impressionable children.

Me.

We can all see the disaster coming, no?

Before I even tell you what happened, I must say that, honestly, up until this point, I was on my best, most charming behavior. I was pleasant. I made polite conversation. I asked people about themselves. One of the guests was not only single, but he was seated next to me and I did not torment him at all. ** I asked the man about his hobbies. I realize that those of you who either know me or are frequent readers of this blog may not believe me, but honestly--I did not deserve this.

Right, so now what happened.

Hostess asked us to introduce ourselves to the table. It was my turn. So there I was, you know, speaking in a charming manner and telling a charming anecdote... about the bombing. (Said bombing not brought up by me, just so you know). Anyway, I got to a point where I had to describe my behavior at a certain point in time. With a big smile, a dramatic eye-roll and my usual "I-am-hard-of-hearing-and-assume-you-are-too" volume I announced:

"I was being a complete twat!"

Faces morph from pleasant smiles into frozen stunned expressions. Stunned with a touch of horror. I realize what I said. And in front of whom I said it. FUCK!

"Twit! I meant twit!"

Nervous laughter. Further down the table, the Executive Director repeated my explanation to the Rabbi. "She meant to say 'twit'".

Not one of my better moments. ..

Why why WHY do these things happen to me?


*Many thanks to the aformentioned Jewish educator in Israel on fellowship for coining this phrase.

**Galia is going to be very bitter when she hears about this. I am NEVER so nice to her guests.