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WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: SAME OLD WORLD

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I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. That’s New York, a city divided into 5 boroughs, each with its own character. Folks think New York is all Manhattan. Wall Street, the Empire State Building. Fifth Avenue. Skyscrapers. But most of New York isn’t Manhattan — and even Manhattan has neighborhoods. Greenwich Village, Harlem, Park Avenue, the Lower East Side. Manhattan’s small, but diverse. From the carousel in Central Park to the open air markets of Rivington Street, to the canyons of the financial district, there’s something for everyone crammed in one small island.

Small is the word for Manhattan, which is how come most of New York’s life happens in the other boroughs. Most families live in Brooklyn or Queens, though Staten Island’s finally come of age and the Bronx has improved a lot. I grew up in Queens. Holliswood. It was full of big old houses, woods and fields back then. I suppose it’s changed. Living less than a mile from the subway , I was surrounded by farms. Ducks, geese and chickens. Horses and donkeys were my neighbors. In those days, Brooklyn was more urban than Queens, but I think it’s all the same now.

When I say I grew up in New York,  people get the wrong idea. I didn’t grow up on mean streets. I lived in a rambling old house surrounded by trees … except I took a subway or bus to school and had access to all the neat stuff New York offers. From a teenager’s point of view, it was as good as it gets. The first time I lived in a city was Jerusalem, which is urban, but not  like New York. It’s ancient, full of ghosts and history. Mythology. Thousands of years hang heavily on its walls. Not your average city. When I moved back to the US, I settled in Boston.

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I like the city, but not the parking, traffic, noise, or constant gridlock. After ten years in Boston, we moved to … Uxbridge. No, not Oxford. South central Massachusetts down by the Rhode Island border. Due south of Worcester. The Blackstone Valley. South of the Pike. It turned out neighbors are neighbors, no matter where you are.

I’ve lived in lots of places. Life is more alike than different, regardless of venue. Big city or a tiny village, everyone knows your business. You don’t have to tell them. They hear it through walls, pick it up in grocery stores, church, from your kids, friends and family. People talk. If you are doing anything interesting, they will talk about you. Even if you aren’t doing anything interesting, they will talk about you because people talk about each other. It’s a people thing.

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Our town isn’t exciting. Not much crime. Not a lot of activity. No public transportation. Teenagers have a hard time until they can drive. Mostly, life is people spending time with people. Hanging out with friends. Watching a movie together. Shopping. Celebrating holidays and birthdays. Barbeques in the back yard in summer. Trick or treating on Halloween.

No matter where you live, it’s about relationships, not architecture.

City and country are not so different except for scenery. People are people. Suburb, city, or middle of nowhere, it’s your friends and family who comprise your world. Not your town, city, or state. Where you live is a state of mind, not of the union.

Ancient Estate and Garden Fountain Unearthed in Israel

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time


The remains of a wealthy estate, with a mosaic fountain in its garden, dating to between the late 10th and early 11th centuries have been unearthed in Ramla in central Israel.

The estate was discovered during excavations at a site where a bridge is slated for construction as part of the new Highway 44.

“It seems that a private building belonging to a wealthy family was located there and that the fountain was used for ornamentation,” Hagit Torgë, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement. “This is the first time that a fountain has been discovered outside the known, more affluent quarters of Old Ramla.”

Fountains from the Fatimid period were mostly found around the center of the Old City of Ramla called White Mosque, Torgë added.

Researchers found two residential rooms within the estate along with a nearby fountain made of mosaic and covered with plaster and stone slabs; A network of pipes, some made of terra cotta and connected with stone jars, led to the fountain. Next to the estate, archaeologists also founda large cistern and a system of pipes and channels used to transport water.

Other discoveries at the site included oil lamps, parts of dolls made of bones and a baby rattle.

A network of pipes, some made of terra cotta and connected with stone jars, led to the fountain disc …

“This is the first time that the fountain’s plumbing was discovered completely intact. The pipes of other fountains did not survive the earthquakes that struck the country in 1033 and 1068 CE,” Torgë said in a statement.

Ramla was founded in the eighth century by the ruler Suleiman Ibn ‘Abd al-Malik. Its strategic location on the road from Cairo to Damascus and from Yafo to Jerusalem made Ramla an important economic center.

The entire area seems to have been abandoned in the mid-11th century, likely in the wake of an earthquake, according to the IAA.

Once the excavation is complete, the fountain will be displayed in the city’s Pool of Arches compound.

Due to Israel’s long history, construction projects often yield archaeological discoveries. For example, a “cultic” temple and traces of a 10,000-year-old house were discovered at Eshtaol west of Jerusalem in preparation for the widening of a road. And during recent expansions of the main road connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, called Highway 1, excavators found a carving of a phallus from the Stone Age, a ritual building from the First Temple era and animal figurines dating back 9,500 years.

See on news.yahoo.com

 

DAILY PROMPT: NO SAFE PLACE?

JerusalemOldCitySepia-3French Hill was a suburb of Jerusalem where I managed a weekly English-language newspaper. I had fallen into the job when the previous editor quit after his paycheck bounced. Twice. Me too, but I wanted the paper to succeed, and was willing to work for free if we might save it.

The newspaper was broke. No money to pay anyone, but I loved running a newspaper. It was the most fun I ever had — professionally. I had an editor, a proofreader, and an art director … and a bankrupt publisher. Her money had kept us in business for a year. We hadn’t gotten the advertisers or investors. Not surprising. The Israeli economy was a disaster.

Israel was in turmoil, Years of bad blood between Arabs and Jews, an awful economy, soaring temperatures. The predominantly Arab areas were seething. The Jewish population was none too happy either. It was bad, but when has it been otherwise?

Jerusalem’s diversity is part of what gives it its unique character. The Jewish population is diverse — from secular and anti-religious, to ultra-Orthodox and everything in between. There are also Christians of every stripe, every flavor of Islam. Bahai, Samaritans … sects I never heard of plus more than a few wannabe Messiahs. I sang along with the Muzzein when he called the faithful to prayer. I loved the chanting, the traditions, clothing, markets, everything.

French Hill is at the northeastern edge of Jerusalem. Good schools. Atop a hill so you can catch a breeze, if there is one. In the summer, Jerusalem simmers as the khamsin, super-heated sandy air masses from the Sahara, turn the city into a sauna.

It was August, perhaps the 10th day of an extended khamsin. Almost nobody had air-conditioning in those days. During khamsin, heat never eases. The air is thick, hot, sandy. Night is as bad as day. Airless. Fans make it worse. If you can’t get out-of-town, find a pool or get to a beach, your best bet is to close your windows and lie on the tile floor wearing as little as possible trying not to breathe. People get crazy when it’s that hot, even people who are normally friendly to one another.

Trying to keep the newspaper alive, there was no escape for me. Except for my car, which had air-conditioning. Which is why I volunteered to take the pages from the office to the typesetter in Givat Zeev.

Jerusalem sits on the top of a mountain, a mile above sea level. There’s a rumor the city has just one road, but it winds a lot. If you keep driving, you’ll get there eventually. Not quite accurate. You can get close — but close can be far.

I’ve no sense of direction at all. When I hear “You can’t miss it,” I know I will miss it. This is how I wound up in downtown Ramallah in the middle of a mini-uprising in late August 1983  I didn’t know what was going on, but I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be there. Fight? Uh, no, I don’t think so. Flight? I was lost. Go where? I stopped the car, pulled to the curb and sat there. No idea what to do next.

A few moments later, two Arab gentlemen jumped into the car with me. No, I didn’t lock the doors. If they wanted to break into my car, they might as well use the doors as smash the windows.  Was I about to be murdered? Abducted?

“You are lost,” the man in the front seat said.

“Oh, very much,” I agreed. The two men conferred in Arabic. I picked up a couple of words, one of them being “American.”

“Okay,” said the man in the front seat. “You need to leave. Now.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I responded. We swapped places. He took the wheel and drove me back to French Hill.

“You must be more careful,” he chided me. “You mustn’t go into dangerous places.” I thanked him with all my heart. He smiled, and the two of them headed back, on foot, to Ramallah. Offering them a lift didn’t seem quite the thing to do.

I never felt endangered, though probably I had been. It was the end of the times when Arabs and Jews could talk to each other, even be friends. I am sad when I think of friends I had in Bethlehem who asked me to stop visiting them because it put them in danger to have an Israeli in their house. There came a time when I could no longer go shopping in the Old City or Bethlehem, when Jewish children could no longer safely play with Arab children.

I lived there for nine years. There has been so much wrong on all sides for so many years it’s impossible to figure out a solution to which all would agree. I don’t see peace on the horizon. There are not just two sides to this conflict; there are an infinite number of sides. I chose to come home to the U.S. The longer I stayed in Israel, the less I understood.

I arrived in Israel in 1978 believing I had some answers, that I knew something. By 1987 , I knew there were no answers and I knew nothing.

WHEN YOU ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE

Garry had a prescription to pick up in town. No big deal except he wasn’t feeling good and just wanted to get the errand run, come home, and crash on the sofa. He couldn’t get into town. On the Sunday before Veteran’s Day a parade was in progress. He asked the local cop how he was supposed to get into town.

“You can’t,” he said.

“But what,” asked Garry, “If this was an emergency? I mean, I need my medication.” The cop shrugged.

“You’d still have to wait till the parade passes.” Garry didn’t like the answer, but there wasn’t much to do about it. He went to the other grocery store, the one just across the border in Rhode Island, picked up a couple of things and came home.

“I couldn’t get to Hannaford’s,” he said. “There was a parade.”

I nodded. “Veteran’s Day.”

“One of the problems of living in a small town.”

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“What, you never tried to get somewhere in Boston on Patriot’s Day? Or any day when the Red Sox were playing? How about when President Clinton visited the North End? They closed the entire city. You couldn’t go anywhere until the Secret Service cleared the area.”

Garry grunted. “Still,” he said, “What if I needed those pills and it wasn’t just a refill?”

“If you were that desperately sick, you’d be in a hospital, not on the way to the pick up a prescription.” He harrumphed.

“Did I ever tell you about the day I had to sign for my new car in Jerusalem? I had just gotten to Israel and it had taken me a little while to get everything in order. But now, it was March 26, 1979 and I had ordered my new car, a white Ford Escort. And I absolutely had to get to the Ford dealership, sign the papers and give them money.

The dealership was across the street and down the road from the King David Hotel, so I hopped a bus. The bus stopped about 100 yards before town. A policeman came to the door, told the driver he had to stop. We were told to get off the bus. We weren’t going any further.

“But,” I said, “I have to get to the Ford dealership. I have to sign for my new car and give them money!”

The policeman shrugged. “Your President is here. Anwar Sadat is here. Begin is here. You can’t go.”

I looked around. There were snipers on the rooftops. The area was crawling with Israeli armed forces and the secret services of three countries, all of whom looked ready to shoot me. A lot of fire power.

“And that is when,” I told Garry, “I knew I absolutely, positively was not going to sign those papers or make that payment on my new car.”

“You win,” said Garry. “You trumped my story.”

SadatInJerusalemI remembered watching the cars sweep by, the big black limos each carrying a head of state with the flags of their respective nations affixed to the front. I caught a glimpse of each man as they took those corners at remarkably high speed. No one was taking chances. It was such an optimistic time in Israel. Everyone thought  we would have — at long last — true peace. Not a cease-fire, but the real deal.

Moshe Dayan — Israel’s negotiator — was glowing. Carter was smiling. Sadat looked content. The crowd cheered for each car as it flew around the corner. Then, gradually, the military withdrew. The road opened up. I went home to return the following day.

On October 6, 1981, Sadat would be assassinated. Ten days later, Dayan would be dead  too. Technically it was his heart and the cancer he’d been fighting for a long time, but I knew it was the same bullet that killed Sadat. When they shot Sadat, they killed Dayan. And killed the hope of peace.

Under the weight of the Iran Hostage Crisis which dragged on for years, Carter’s presidency would be in tatters. The optimism of March 1979 would be replaced by sadness, bitterness and pessimism.

For one bright afternoon, a day on which I absolutely couldn’t get where I needed to go, Jerusalem was full of joy, hope and celebration. And I had a new car waiting for me at the Ford dealership across from the King David hotel.

Postscript:

I knew at the time I was witnessing history. I know I wrote letters home to tell people what I’d seen. And then, for the next 34 years, I forgot it — until Garry was talking about not being able to get to the store. Strange, isn’t it? That I forgot such a big moment for so many years. I’m glad I could share it. I never have before.

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WAITING TO GO HOME

I moved to New England 35 years ago. I don’t want to sound like a cliché, but it feels as if it was no more than few months ago. On some level, I think like a transplanted New Yorker. Yet I’ve lived up here longer than I lived in New York. I’ve live here more than half my life.

P.S. 35

I grew up in Queens, New York. Holliswood. I went to P.S. 35 — the same school Art Buchwald attended (yes, I know, it’s not a big deal but it’s the best P.S. 35 offers) — J.H.S. 109 (which my husband also attended, but in a different year) and finally, Jamaica High School. That’s about as New York as it gets.

I was 30 years old when I moved overseas and settled in Jerusalem. I returned — to Massachusetts — in 1987. Other than visits, I haven’t lived in New York  since 1978. Odd how the early years, where you grew up, carries more weight than places you live later. Our “defaults” get set by where we take our first breaths, where we attend school.

I am hooked on the four season year. Autumn is the most evocative season, the crunching of leaves under the soles of brand new school shoes. The start of the school year. The year really begins in September — I am forever ruled by a school calendar that ceased being relevant in 1967.

Drifting leaves

When I was in Israel, I desperately missed Autumn. I yearned for snow that never fell. Even though now I could live without seeing another flake. And I wanted the ocean. I wanted to smell salt in the air, hear breakers hitting the shore. That feeling of the sea washing the sand out from under your bare feet as you stand in the surf with the waves lapping around your shins.

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I don’t want to go back to New York to live. I really don’t. I love the city but not that way, not to live there. Visiting New York is fun and full of memories, but I don’t want to make a home there. New England is home now and I can’t imagine living elsewhere.

We’ve got all four seasons (okay, three and a quarter really because spring is minimal). But a New England autumn is the best, though it isn’t as long as it was a few degrees of latitude south. As for winter?

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This valley outsnows just about every place except maybe central Nebraska and northern Minnesota. Not quite as cold and I don’t mind that.

It’s beautiful here … yet sometimes, I feel like a New Yorker, living here and waiting to go home. Why is that?

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Traveling slowly through time

Without a machine or a wormhole we travel through time every day of our lives.

When I was perhaps ten, I read about Halley’s Comet. I learned it would be visible in the heavens on my 39th birthday.

“Wow” I said. “I’ll be so old and I will see the comet on my birthday … when I am thirty-nine.” I couldn’t imagine ever being so old … or seeing Halley’s Comet.

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When my 39th birthday rolled around, I was living in Jerusalem. On my birthday, as I had planned when I was 10 years old, we went out into the Judean desert and saw the comet. It was Rosh Chodesh, the new moon which has special significance in Judaism. One of our group was Orthodox (the rest of us were not) and he had a lot of praying to do before we went to see the comet.

The Jerusalem Post had published the exact times when the comet would be visible and where on the horizon to look. Sure enough, there it was, low on the horizon over Bethlehem. It turned out, when we got back to the house, we could see it perfectly from our balcony. When we knew where to look, it was easy to locate. halleys-comet-1986

That was 27 years ago. I remember knowing the comet was coming and I planned to see it on my 39th birthday. I did see it on that birthday, in a different country on the other side of the world. Now, in my 66th year, I remember the knowing, the seeing. I have the perspective of a child, a woman, and the grandmother. I have traveled through time. Slowly. Without a machine, without a wormhole.

It is no less time traveling than in a science fiction story … just a great deal slower.

Life is a trip through time. Mine, yours, everyone’s. We won’t bump into our younger or older self, but we carry each of these selves. They are as real and alive as the memories we keep.

Jewish Jokes

My father was not a really nice guy, but he was a salesman and spent a lot of time on the road. Consequently, he had an enormous repertoire of jokes. Some I can’t repeat, not because they are dirty, but because they were mostly in Yiddish and they don’t translate, but others are universal.

That’s the thing about ethnic humor. It really isn’t “Jewish” or “Italian” or any other group. It is human. From group to group, there is often more truth in the jokes we tell about ourselves than in any other form of communication.

Mea Shearim in 2006 — Photograph by Ahron de Leeuw

The Nature of the Jewish Husband-Wife Relationship

So one day, a surveyor comes to the home of an Orthodox couple and asks if it would be alright if he asked a few questions about male and female roles in the household.

“Sure, why not?” says the Lady of the House.

“My first question is,” says the surveyor, “Which of you is in charge of making the important decisions about your family or do you split them up?”

“Oh,” says the wife. “We are very traditional. I do the unimportant decisions and he takes care of the really important ones.”

“What unimportant decisions do you make?”

“I decide how we will pay the bills, where to send the children to school, whether or not we need to move to a different neighborhood, how we will handle our healthcare, what we will eat, making sure the children learn about God and attend to their religious duties. That sort of thing,” she explains.

The surveyor is puzzled. “So what,” he asks, “are the important things your husband handles?”

The wife smiles. “He decides what relationship God has with mankind, how we achieve peace on earth, and the nature of righteousness.”

Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee — Israel Ministry of Tourism

Judaism and Jews

Twelve Jews are stranded on a desert island. They are there many years. When finally a ship comes by and they are rescued, the rescuers are surprised to discover that there are 13 synagogues on the island.

The ship’s captain is puzzled. “I can understand,” he says, “why you might have 12 synagogues, but what’s with thirteenth?”

Replies everyone in concert “That’s the one nobody goes to.”

(Note: Whether or not you find this funny depends on your ethnicity.)

Dead Sea – Israel Ministry of Tourism

An Israeli Joke

An Israeli man who studied in Texas gets an email from his old school mate saying that he’s going to visit Israel and can they get together?

Avi is delighted and prepares to show his country to his Texan friend. But while he’s giving his friend  “the tour,” every time he shows something to his friend, the friend says that his father owns, or has built something bigger and better in Texas.

He shows him the Old City in Jerusalem and his friend says “why we’ve got ghost towns on our ranch bigger than that.” When looking at the Sea of Galilee, the Texan comments that “there are puddles bigger than that on our ranch.”

Finally, in near desperation, Avi takes his pal to the Dead Sea.

“You see that?” he says, pointing at the body of water.

“Yup,” says the Texan.

“My father killed it,” says Avi.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Fine Recipe for Baked Me

Note: This is a complicated recipe. Full preparation may take decades. Patience is required.

Part I: 

Mix three scant cups of child abuse and sexual molestation. Combine carefully (do not over-beat) with a double handful of art, literature and music. Add a tablespoon each cumin, garlic, salt, pepper. Omit sugar. This recipe does not call for sweetening.

Add thousands of library books, and hundreds of hours deep in the stacks of the New York public library. Add orange juice until a soft batter is formed. Mix gently but thoroughly until you can no longer tell fact from fiction. Cover and refrigerate for a decade or so.

I'm in the middle, Mom and my sister Ann are on the right. Code Red.

I’m in the middle, Mom and my sister Ann are on the right. Code Red.

Part II:

Add a handful of excellent LSD, half a pound of finely ground marijuana to 20 years of education and a bachelor’s degree. Include one Steinway grand piano, an erudite husband, a bunch of wonderful, loving and supportive friends, one crazy college radio station and an old typewriter with glass sides.

NOTE: Keep track of the future husband over there (the quiet, handsome one). You’ll need him later.

Add yeast. Knead several times. Cover, then put aside in a warm place to rise. Add a baby, catastrophic medical bills, a broken spine, a husband with kidney cancer and a heart attack. For spice, use two mortgages, car payments and a career in publishing. Don’t forget a couple of fantastic women friends.

Part III:

Put all the ingredients in a big greased bowl and knead until smooth. Put aside for a separate rising. Pack everything and move it to the city of Jerusalem. That’s pretty far away, so pack carefully.

86 Derech Hevron, Jerusalem, Israel

Now, add one stupid, mean, and abusive husband, a couple of terribly confused stepchildren, the aforementioned son, 60 hour work weeks and a heaping dose of new technology. Put them to cook in a city full of magic and ghosts of ages past. Add a rounded tablespoon of mysticism, a few ancient artifacts discovered along the road.

Part IV:

Remove Mother and aunt, reserving enough cash to get back to the U.S.A. Don’t forget the rest of the recipe! It’s still rising. Check your fridge.

Defrost future husband. Warm to room temperature, then heat up with lots of cuddling, hugs, encouragement and faith. Grab that risen dough from refrigerator. Knead thoroughly. Build a teepee, then separate batter into four pieces.

Braid each loaf and bake at 400 degrees until each loaf is golden, suitable for a feast.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

Serving Suggestions:

Sprinkle with dog hair and oak pollen, nest in a new career and top with a dollop of joy.

Ignore spinal calcification (it’ll still taste great, but you’ll have to eat sitting down). Be sure to remove two large malignant breasts (they can ruin the feast) while retaining a spicy sense of humor. Serve warm.

NO SAFE PLACE?

JerusalemOldCitySepia-3It was an ordinary day in the suburb of Jerusalem where I managed a weekly English-language newspaper. I had fallen into the job when the previous editor quit — after his paycheck bounced. Twice. Me too, but I wanted the paper to succeed, and was willing to work for free if we might save it. Most of us kept working without pay. We were optimists in the midst of disaster.

The newspaper was broke. No money to pay anyone, but I loved running a newspaper. It was the most fun I ever had — professionally. I had an editor, a proofreader, and an art director … and a bankrupt publisher. Her money had kept us in business for a year. We hadn’t gotten the advertisers or investors. Not surprising. The Israeli economy was a disaster.

The lira was in free fall. 180% inflation is hard to imagine. The value of your paycheck disappears between breakfast and lunch, so your best bet is to spend every cent immediately, then spend more.

Israel was in turmoil, Years of bad blood between Arabs and Jews, an awful economy, soaring temperatures. The predominantly Arab areas were seething. The Jewish population was none too happy either. It was bad, but when has it been otherwise?

Jerusalem’s diversity is part of what gives it its unique character. The Jewish population is diverse — from secular and anti-religious, to ultra-Orthodox and everything in between. There are also Christians of every stripe, every flavor of Islam. Bahai, Samaritans … and sects I never heard of plus more than a few wannabe Messiahs. I sang along with the Muzein when he called the faithful to prayer. I loved the chanting, loved the traditions, the clothing, the markets, everything. Not everyone loved me.

French Hill, where I worked is a pleasant neighborhood at the northeastern edge of Jerusalem. Good schools. It’s atop a hill so you can catch a breeze, if there is one. In the summer, Jerusalem simmers as the khamsin, super-heated sandy air masses from the Sahara, turns the city into a sauna.

It was August, perhaps the 10th day of an extended khamsin. Almost nobody had air-conditioning in those days. Under normal weather condition in the desert, when you step into shade, the temperature drops 25 or more degrees. The air is so dry it doesn’t hold heat.

During khamsin, heat never eases. The air is thick, hot, sandy. Night is as bad as day. Airless. Fans make it worse. If you can’t get out-of-town, find a pool or get to a beach, your best bet is to close your windows and lie on the tile floor wearing as little as possible trying not to breathe. People get crazy when it’s that hot, even people who are normally friendly to one another.

Trying to keep the newspaper alive, there was no escape for me. Except for my car, which was air-conditioned. It was a Ford Escort with a tiny 1.3 liter engine, but the A/C worked pretty well. Which is why I volunteered to take the pages from the office to the typesetter in Givat Zeev.

Jerusalem sits atop a mountain. There’s a rumor the city has just one road, but it winds a lot. If you keep driving, you’ll get there eventually. Not quite accurate. You can get close — but close can be far.

I’ve no sense of direction at all. When I hear the words “You can’t miss it,” I know I definitely will miss it. This is how I wound up in downtown Ramallah in the middle of a mini-uprising in late August 1983  I didn’t know what was going on, but I was pretty sure I shouldn’t be there. Fight? Uh, no, I don’t think so. Flight? I was lost. Go where? I stopped the car, pulled to the curb and sat there. No idea what to do next.

A few moments later, two Arab gentlemen jumped into the car with me. That’s right, I didn’t lock the doors. If they wanted to break into my car, they might as well use the doors as break the windows.  Was I about to be murdered? Abducted?

“You are lost,” the man in the front seat said.

“Oh, very much,” I agreed. The two men conferred in Arabic. I picked up a couple of words, one of them being “American.”

“Okay,” said the man in the front seat. “You need to leave. Now.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I responded. We swapped places. He took the wheel and drove me back to French Hill.

“You must be more careful,” he chided me. “You mustn’t go into dangerous places.” I thanked him with all my heart. He smiled, and the two of them headed back, on foot, to Ramallah. Offering them a lift didn’t seem quite the thing to do.

I never felt endangered, though probably I had been. It was the end of the times when Arabs and Jews could talk to each other, even be friends. I am sad when I think of friends I had in Bethlehem who asked me to stop visiting them because it put them in danger to have an Israeli in their house. There came a time when I could no longer go shopping in the Old City or Bethlehem, when Jewish children could no longer safely play with Arab children.

I lived there for nine years. There has been so much wrong on all sides for so many years it’s impossible to figure out a solution to which all would agree. I don’t see peace on the horizon. There are not just two sides to this conflict; there are an infinite number of sides. I chose to come home to the U.S. The longer I stayed in Israel, the less I understood.

I arrived in Israel in 1978 believing I had some answers, that I knew something. By 1987 , I knew there were no answers and I knew nothing.

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Coming to Jerusalem

Once upon a time, in another life, I had a home in Jerusalem, just down the road from Jaffa Gate.

Nowadays, when I remember Jerusalem, the edges are soft. My Jerusalem is gone. Time brought housing projects, shopping malls, office parks. I don’t want that Jerusalem.

I didn’t know, when I first went up to Jerusalem, that I was arriving at the end of an era. Those would be the last years the Bedouins would cross their sheep through the middle of town, stopping traffic on King George Street on their way to the greener grass on the other side of the mountain.

Those would be the final years during which you could stand on the edge of the wadi by an ancient olive grove to see the great golden Dome of the Rock glowing in the first light of dawn. Now, the wadi is filled with condos. There’s a promenade where  ancient olives trees grew. They cut down thousand-year-old groves of olive trees to build a promenade so tourists would not get sand in their shoes.

At the end of January 1979, my son and I arrived at Lod airport. Neither of us had ever been to Israel. Owen knew absolutely nothing of the place. I had read a great deal about it … history, legends, guidebooks and novels. We had no friends or family in the country, nor were we familiar with the language or customs. Despite this, we would make it our home and both of us would grow to love it.

My mother said she thought me very brave to leap into the unknown. I enjoyed the role of intrepid heroine. But I was not brave, just hungry for adventure and yearning for culture shock.

I was running toward a new beginning, a different reality I could not find by staying in where I’d always been. I went up to Yerushalayim shel zahav.

When we arrived, exhausted and anxious at Ben Gurion airport, I scanned the faces in the crowd, wondering who would be there to take charge of us and get us to our destination. Remarkably, someone was there, and somehow, we recognized one another. We were collected, processed and given official identity papers. I had never carried official identity papers before. Americans didn’t need them in those more innocent days.

In the United States, a driver’s license and maybe a credit card was enough to tell the world who you were. In Israel, I would carry official identity papers wherever I went. Now, it’s not so different here. Funny how the world catches up with you.

Before leaving the airport reception area – almost as an afterthought – I was handed some Israeli money, the value of which I did not know. Then they plunked our belongings into a taxi and off we went, up the winding road to Jerusalem. By then, we hadn’t slept in many long hours and everything seemed surreal.

I remember that the taxi driver played the radio loud and sang along. The music was 1960s American rock and roll. The driver and I could not talk. He spoke no English; I spoke no Hebrew. I tried to get a sense of the place, but tired and jet-lagged, it was just images tumbling one on top of another. I saw much and understood nothing.

We were dumped at an absorption center, a kind of way station for immigrants where you live for free, learn Hebrew, and try to get used to your new world. I don’t know any other country that gives immigrants so much, but it was for all that, a chilly reception.

English: Jerusalem, Dome of the rock, in the b...

The apartment had a living room, a hallway with a kitchenette, a small bedroom, and a miniscule bathroom with a mini bathtub. There were no closets. Israeli homes do not have closets. If you have stuff you want to put away, you buy closets and put them where you want them. Israeli closets combine the functions of closets and dressers, necessitated by the smaller size of Israeli homes.

Lacking any other place to put things, we used the trunks in which we had brought our belongings as dressers and stuffed everything else into corners.

There were other things missing from the tiny apartment. The first missing item we noticed was food. The tiny refrigerator was empty. It was obvious that before I knew which way was up, we were going to have to confront the issue of food. Hunger was gnawing at us. We had no car and not a clue where we might buy food.

Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem. Penderecki's Seventh ...

We had brought some basic pots and pans, dishes and cutlery with us. Fortunate, because none of these were supplied. Naked light bulbs hung from wires in the ceiling. At least there was light.

Finding food became urgent, so we ventured out and found the tiny grocery store around the corner. All the labels were in Hebrew, which of course I couldn’t read. As far as I could tell, there was no prepared food and I didn’t recognize much of what I saw. Bread was sold in whole, un-sliced loaves. Cheese was sold by metric weight. For the most part, I recognized the fruits and vegetables, but even some of those were unfamiliar.

Culture shock really struck when I tried to buy milk. Finding milk required asking everyone until I found someone who spoke English. He then led me to the dairy case. This was unsettling since I’d thought that a dairy case is a dairy case and would be easy enough to recognize.

Over-tired, I felt actually faint when I saw that all the milk was sold in plastic bags. Bags. Not cartons. Not bottles. Bags. What in the world was I going to do with a bag of milk? Finally, I bought a pitcher. After tearing the bag open with my teeth – not having thought to bring a pair of scissors with me – I carefully poured the milk into it.

It turned out that there are special containers to hold milk bags and you just snip off a corner and pour the milk directly from the bag. Who knew? Without a guide, I would never have figured it out. This was not something that an American would intuitively grasp.

Owen and I were officially home. We finally slept. The next morning dawned into brilliant sunshine.

“Let’s go see our city,” I said and we found the bus to Jerusalem, rode down Hebron road, and got off at Jaffa Gate.

The walls rose up tall around us and I shivered with excitement (I suspect that Owen, lacking my expectations, was merely stunned into silence). This was what had brought me to Jerusalem. Thousands of years of ghosts floated through those narrow streets. You couldn’t walk alone in the Old City. If the city were deserted by all that breathed except for you, you would still have had the ghosts of generations to accompany you. Their presence was palpable.

Donkeys, so heavily laden that they looked as if they would collapse under their loads, plied the stone streets, cruelly prodded by small brown boys armed with sticks and shrill voices. Vendors called from their stalls, garments brightly ornamented with intricate needlework. Everything rustled in a light breeze. Stall owners stood in the lanes accosting passersby.

“Come in, come in,” they called. “I make you a special deal.”

A powerful sense of the heavy stone buildings dominated everything. The shops were mere portholes in the great mass of rock. Gray stone, black stone, stone veined in green, and pink Jerusalem stone was everywhere, underfoot, overhead, all around.

Small open spaces housed spice markets that filled the air with the most exotic smells, the scent of ginger mixed with cinnamon, cumin and saffron. Just breathing was a joy. As the day moved on, more and more people arrived, filling the shuk until it seethed with activity and noise. Everywhere, people were haggling over prices, making deals, grabbing up bargains, filling their bags. The shuk was vital and alive.

It’s gone now. Politics and war have killed the marketplace in the Old City, a marketplace that had survived for thousands of years.

The air was ripe with the smell of spices mixed with the odor of donkey droppings and human sweat. Everyone was buying or selling something. Voices were loud, pitched and echoed off the stone walls and walkways.

Jerusalem of gold, Jerusalem of stone, and in the springtime and summer, Jerusalem of flowers.

Old City streets go every which way with no apparent logic or reason. Tiny alleys appear, then angle off, going up, down, curling around and ending at a staircase, a wall, a cistern, or back where they began. You can wander without really worrying that you’ll get lost. Chances are good that you will find yourself, sooner or later, back exactly where you began

The Old City is tiny. Sometimes though, if you roam without fear, you will find yourself in a place you never knew existed, a hidden and strange place filled with mystery and wonder.

All around you, embedded in the walls, is the architectural history of the city.

“Yerushalmis change their minds a lot,” I was told. The walls tell stories. You could see the outlines where arches and windows had been but were now closed and see how the ground level had risen. One day, I looked down and realized that I was on the original Roman road where the armies of Rome had marched, where Jesus, the Apostles, Akiva and Herod had walked. Those who shaped our world, spiritual and secular had been on this road, to conquer, battle, kill, uplift, love, hate, die.

The Old City is overcrowded, packed densely with both the living and ghosts of the dead. I have walked the top of the walls of the Old City, climbed the battlements. You can’t do that anymore, of course, because in the new regime it’s considered too dangerous and everything is roped off, closed to the public.

Jaffa Gate (Gate of the Friend, Chevron Gate, ...

In those days you could go inside the walls and up the narrow, crumbling stairs to the top, walk the perimeter and imagine how it was when the Babylonians and the Romans laid siege.

I later these streets with Jeff, Owen’s dad. He sensed those ghosts too. We looked out over the desert, saw the remnants of the war engines with which the Romans had laid siege to Jerusalem. The place from which they had laid siege was also the place where, in very ancient days, babies and young children were sacrificed to the god Moloch.

This same place is now used to hold outdoor concerts during Jerusalem’s long summer evenings. This little valley sits just below the walls of the Old City and is very beautiful and has excellent natural acoustics. The Old City walls are always lit at night with spotlights, giving concert-goers an unparalleled view of the old city walls.

That wadi is forever cold, even on warm summer evenings. A chill breeze constantly blows in that valley. Perhaps the winds that blow there are full of the ghosts of the sacrificed babies and maybe the souls of soldiers who fought and died to conquer or defend Jerusalem.

That valley is not a happy place. The dead rest uneasily there. Despite its beauty and natural acoustic qualities, I think it’s is a poor venue for concerts.

Owen and I, on that first day, wandered through areas that today are so dangerous that no one goes there unless heavily armed. On that day, the city led us into herself. She twisted us around here and there. Over time, both of us would fall in love with particular places in Jerusalem and make them our own.

Somehow, we found ourselves at the top of a hill, looking down at the great stones that form the footing of the Temple Mount, the Wailing Wall. On top, we saw for the first time the golden Dome of the Rock. It matters not that Dome of the Rock is a mosque. To me, it stands as a shining monument to God on His most holy place. There is a reason why humans keep fighting for this miniscule piece of land.

English: Jerusalem, Jaffa Gate Deutsch: Jerusa...

It was as if the walls and the golden dome and the stones made my bones resonate. At that instant I fell in love. No matter how difficult my life would later become, the city would lift me up. Jerusalem sang to me, called to me, made love to me, and now, so many years later, in my dreams, I am still in love with her.

Prompts for the Promptless – Ep. 10 – Saudade: Remembering Mom

Saudade is a Portuguese word that describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone who one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.

My friends, who came as I did to live in Israel, shared the fear of receiving “the phone call” telling us a parent had passed away across an ocean and perhaps half a world.

We were haunted children. Each Passover we gathered. Elijah’s cup stood on the table. It was my mother’s cup and though she lived, she was also a ghost because she was so far away. I looked at my son. When I am old, I wondered, will he go far away to live in a different country?

I was 31 when left the U.S. and moved to Israel. I left in a ferocious need to be. Nothing would have stopped me. My mother never tried to stop me. She told me she admired me – admired me – for having the courage to leave.

I lay in bed the morning my mother died. Images tumbled through my head. In my mind’s eye, I saw the funeral I could not attend, my brother, older, sadder. And my sister. My mother was her protector. What would Ann do now? Two birds twitter as they build a nest on my Jerusalem window ledge…

I lived most of my adult life within half an hour’s drive from my mother and never gave it a second thought. We talked by phone, saw each other now and then for a bit of shopping and a chat. Such was life in suburban New York.

Living in Israel – being so far away – taught me about family We saw each other through a time-lapse sequence. Each visit, she was visibly older, changed. A call – “Your mother is in the hospital” – brought panic. Nothing could reassure me.

Another visit to Israel. It is the year after my mother’s surgery and she looks so tired. I can see the weariness, yes, but she is still Mother. I saw her as I had always seen her: strong, an elemental force in my world. A friend commented: “What a fragile little woman your mother is!” That stopped me short. I had never seen my mother as fragile. Or little. She was as she had always been … but maybe my eyes were faulty.

My mother was with me, then had to leave and another year passed.

Mom-May1944

It was 1983. She had come for Passover.  I was overjoyed to have my family together. We would have three uninterrupted weeks. My mother looked wonderful. Her color was back. Just before the Seder, she tells me that she is dying.

“Dying?” I was inane in my shock. “But you look so well.”

She was not well. She had cancer. It had spread to her lungs and stomach. She said she could feel herself sliding away. “I don’t want to lose you,” I cried. If I cry, Mother will fix it, it will be okay.

“I don’t want to lose me either,” she said, and laughed.

“How can you laugh?” I said.

“What else is there to do?” she replied.

Fears and prayers and hopes. Relentlessly, she told me what I need to know about the will,my brother and sister. I am the first to be told.

We took a two-day trip to the Galilee. The wildflowers were blooming. They were scarlet and blue, white and pink, yellow and purple. The Galil was ablaze and we saw it together. I remember. The Hermon, still crowned with snow. The Kinneret, mist-covered.

My mother always talked to me. I was little, very little. I sat next to her while she ironed and she talked about life, her thoughts, her dreams. Was she lonely? Did she miss her own mother who had passed away?

The final summer of her life, I went to the United States to be with her. She still looked well. How could she be so ill? Yet the signs were there. Her will sustained her. She wanted me to remember the Mother I knew, and not as she would be in weeks to follow.

Mom1973-3

She let me take care of her, and that spoke volumes. We talked, talked, talked. I tried to tell her all the things I’d never gotten around to saying, never found the right words.

I just let the words fall out. I wanted her to know that all the little hurts … they were nothing. Forgive me Mother … I forgive you, too.

I am my mother. I am the cycle, the pattern. I sit by a pool and watch my granddaughter play in the water, and I am my mother, and I am in the pool. I am the one, mother who is and will be.

My mother gave me a diamond that was her mother’s and perhaps, though no one can remember so far back, her grandmother’s. It was the one thing that had been passed down the generations. All else was lost, long ago, left behind in another old … older … country.

I have become the woman my mother raised me to be. As she molded me, I am – for good and ill. I am my mother’s daughter.

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Sensible Violence

75-Duck-BosCommHP-1

We were up in Worcester, the capital of our middle-of-nowhere part of the world. Taking pictures, happily unaware that something awful was happening 60 miles away in Boston. When we got home and the phone and email lit up, we knew something was up,

Garry and I lived in Boston for a long time. Garry was a reporter. If he were still working, as many of his friends are, he would have been exactly where the bombs went off. I would have been one of the terrified wives waiting to hear if my husband was alive and/or in multiple pieces. Maybe I would have been one of the unlucky ones. I’m glad to have missed the experience.

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A lot of people needed reassurance, wanted to be sure Garry wasn’t working (retired since 2001, but not everyone believes it) and we hadn’t gone to see the Marathon. We had merely taken a drive up to Worcester, looping back via the grocery store and the pond where the swans live. A normal pleasant spring day. For us, anyhow.

I had been laughing earlier in the day about how seriously New Englanders take their holidays. I had tried to get in touch with my doctor only to discover the office was closed for Patriot’s Day. If you live in Boston, there’s also Evacuation Day, another Revolutionary War remembrance, but affecting only the city. I can’t imagine New York closing down to celebrate a battle that took place more than 200 years ago. New York’s all about getting on with business, but Boston is into remembering and celebrating traditions.

Boston State House - Night

Boston State House – Night

Patriot’s Day and the Boston Marathon are part of what makes the Commonwealth and the city special. Unique. Boston is a big city, but it’s accessible. Even with awful parking, potholes and traffic, you can drive in Boston. You may not enjoy the experience but the city is not in constant gridlock. It’s a great walking city too. There are lots of street festivals, free concerts, and events that are open to everyone and their families. Is that going to change?

Are people going to be too afraid to enjoy the city? Lock themselves up behind steel doors? If terrorists can’t kill us all, they sure can take the joy out of life … if we let them.

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I can’t in good conscience tell anyone not to be afraid. But I lived in Jerusalem. I did lose friends to terrorists. It was black humor indeed to call Thursday at the marketplace “Bomb day.” Yet we went on living because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate and because if you close down your world, the bastards have won.

Yesterday, as we watched and listened to the news, we worried about people we knew until we finally heard they were safe.

I don’t “get” the terrorist gestalt, murdering civilians to make a political statement. What statement can you make based on murder? That you are willing to slaughter people because your cause is more important than life itself? Nothing is more important than life.

I have a feeling we aren’t dealing with an international conspiracy. No one has claimed responsibility for this atrocity. The bombs were built to inflict maximum harm, ugly bombs intended to tear flesh, rip and rend. Any bomb can kill you, but these were explicitly created to maim as well as murder.

If it’s discovered this is the work of a homegrown psychopath, will this make us feel better? I don’t find the idea comforting. Quite the opposite. The perpetrator could be a neighbor … or anyone. That’s creepy, not comforting.

Old South Church from Boston Commons

Garry always laughs at the expression “senseless violence.” As if there’s some other kind. The sensible kind.

There may be times when killing is unavoidable to prevent a greater evil but it’s never a good thing, only sometimes justifiable to protect yourself or others. Killing is never good. Sane people know this. Civilian, military and law enforcement personnel don’t casually take lives. That so many people seem comfortable with murder is deeply disturbing. What is wrong with them … and with us that we glorify killers and turn them into heroes?

Boston Commons and Statehouse-HP-1

Yesterday in Boston, someone showed his/her/their inhumanity and cowardice. Religious fanatics? Non-denominational crazies? Foreign sociopaths? Homegrown psychopaths? Some other previously unknown lunatic fringe group … or a deranged individual?

Does it matter?

Whoever or whatever … I hope we catch them and make sure they never do it again to anyone anywhere.

From Garry:

I covered the Boston Marathon and other Patriot’s Day events for 31 years until my retirement. They are some of the most wonderful memories in my entire TV/radio news career covering more than 40 years. Patriot’s Day is special in New England, in Massachusetts, in greater Boston. The Revolutionary War re-enactments at dawn in Lexington and Concord were among my favorite assignments.

You could see children getting their first real look at history. Normally stoic or cynical adults looked on with pride and awe. I still see their faces in my sense memory. The Marathon weekend was always a period when the bad things going on in the world were put on hold for a brief time.

You met people from all around the world. Instant friendships were formed. Politics were set aside. Laughter and smiles were the common language. It is hard not to see this attack — even in this post 9/11 world — as anything but a horrible loss of innocence. It is so very sad.

That Rosy Glow

With the big day coming up — the 50th high school reunion to which I am not going — I’m getting deluged with emails from The Reunion Group. I no longer read all of them, but every once in a while, I open one up and I’m always sorry I did. The primary area of discussion has moved on from each person telling the story of his or her way better-than-mine life to reminiscing about the school song, almost the definition of “from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

We never sang that song. Not at assemblies, not in chorus, not at all. Almost no one knew the words. I knew the words because they were so funny to me, given the real school and who we were, that I memorized the words for kicks and was usually the only kid who knew all three verses.

Here’s to her the school we love,

Jamaica, tried and true – oo,

Source of all our dearest aims,

Dear School of Red and Blue.

Red and Blue

Red and Blue

School of Red and Blue!

In love our hearts go out to her,

Dear school of Red and Blue!

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If that doesn’t make you cry, you have no soul. It makes me laugh, so what does that make me?

What compels otherwise sane folks to transform a mixed experience rich with the good, the bad and a big dollop of indifferent, into “the best years of our lives?” It wasn’t. Not for anyone.  They cancelled the Senior Prom due to lack of interest. I know because I actually had a date for the prom, but he and I were the only two people to sign up, so they cancelled it. What does that say about reality versus memory?

A few people go way back. We didn’t merely attend high school together. We also went to elementary school and junior high school in one big batch. We got to know each other a lot better than we wanted, a huge dose of too much information. By junior high, I was too miserable to remember much of anything and was being actively bullied by the same mean girls I swear are still hanging around hallways and school yards today. Maybe they are clones of the same girls.

Thank God for the special program that got me through three years of junior high in two years. At least the misery was shortened by a year. Pity about never learning fractions and all. It certainly didn’t improve my shaky math skills.

So all of these people are singing (literally in some cases) the praises of the school and the school system. It was a better than average school academically, but fantastic? It was huge, crowded and if you didn’t measure up and get yourself into the “brainiac college-bound” group, you got nothing from the school except a place to sit in class. The school was academically better than most, but otherwise was no better than every other overcrowded New York city high school. I had some interesting teachers. I had a few really good teachers, and at least one that seriously influenced my future. There were also one or two memorable ones, though not always in a good way.

With current planning involving all these aging nerds and geeks singing the school song, I cannot begin to imagine myself standing around (probably sitting since my arthritis is pretty bad) howling a school song no one ever sang while we were going to school. I think I’d collapse from laughter, genuine ROFLMAO stuff.

What urge makes people cast a rosy glow over a time that wasn’t rosy for them?  So many of my classmates seem intent on reliving a past that didn’t happen at all. Is it because we are getting old and want our youth to have been much happier than it was?

Life was what it was. I am not a fan of revisionist history. I occasionally get an email from someone who has found my blog or my Facebook page. They want to renew our friendship. But we weren’t friends. Ever. Some of them are from that group of “mean girls” who turned my life in elementary school and junior high into a small personal hell. Now they want to be my pal? Really? Why? Have they actually forgotten the way it was? Why does no one ever talk about the one really cool thing we had: a gorgeous Olympic-sized swimming pool. Maybe I was the only one who always chose swimming instead of gym. I didn’t mind getting my hair wet, but apparently I was unique that way.

Is this whole collective stumble down memory lane a bizarre form of self-hypnosis whereby we erase real memories and replace them with stuff that never happened? Are we that old and out of touch?

I remember. Many of us suffered from, as did I, difficult home lives. We did a lot of acting out, each in our own way. I buried myself in books and didn’t emerge until college. Fortunately, that turned out to be a lot less destructive than other possible coping mechanisms. I’m watching my granddaughter do her own version of self-destruction for reasons painfully similar to mine, minus the abusive parents, but adding in social ostracism impossible until computers and cell phones. I have serious doubts about the human race and supposed social progress.

But here I go waxing philosophical again. Hell, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what point God was making when he took Job, beat him to a pulp, then told him he had no right to question why it was happening to him. That’s my very  favorite Bible story. Life in a  nutshell. Shut up Marilyn. Apparently everyone but me has been highly successful and had insanely perfect lives. It’s just possible that I didn’t live the past half century on the same planet as they did. It doesn’t sound like my planet. Does it sound like yours?

This is far too weird for me though it makes good fodder for writing. And inserting lots of question marks in my tired old brain.

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Award Time! The Liebster …

Gabrielle at My Heathen Heart has kindly — over my admittedly half-hearted objections — put me up for The Liebster Award. I have no objection to getting an award — heaven forbid that I should be so hypocritical! — but rather that the Liebster is usually awarded to relatively new bloggers who have fewer than 100 followers.

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I have 227 follower at the moment (the number goes up and down by a few) and just passed the 45,000 hit mark today (or maybe it was yesterday), so I feel a bit like I’m sailing under false colors. However, despite being a little overqualified for the honor, it is an honor. I am touched, grateful and continually surprised at being honored for doing something I so very much enjoy.  I must be doing something right and I will try very hard to keep doing it, whatever it may be :-)

Thank you Gabrielle — very much! If it weren’t against the rules, I’d give it right back to you because you deserve it! I also want to thank Gabrielle for the nicest version of the Liebster Award I’ve ever seen! It’s great!

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 THE RULES ◊

Direct from Gabrielle’s post:

1. Publicly thank and link back to your nominator’s blog.

2. Nominate other blogs and notify them.

3. Answer 11 questions from your nominator.

4.  Tell 11 random things about yourself.

5.  Write 11 questions for your nominees  – or they can answer the same ones asked of you.

However. Rules are made to be broken. Please don’t feel obliged to push yourself beyond your comfort zone to fulfill any of the requirements. If you have one or two nominees, that’s fine. If you can’t think of much to say about yourself, write about something else. This is supposed to be fun, an honor, something to enjoy … so let’s not turn it into hard work.

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THE QUESTIONS ♠

These are same as those on list Gabrielle’s blog:

Why did you start writing a blog? I’m a writer and a very opinionated one … and since no one listens to me at home, I figured I might as well throw myself on the mercy of the Internet!

What is your favorite work of fiction? Angelique, by Anne Golon. Long out of print, but still as wonderful as ever.

How would you describe your personal philosophy/spiritual path? Open-minded, skeptical, and uncommitted.

What has impressed you lately? How many people are really passionate about trivial things when there are so many important issues are being ignored. This is not a good thing.

What has depressed you lately? How ignorant and intellectually lazy the younger generations seem to be.

What advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time ten years? Hang onto your money — you’re going to need it!

What are your vices? Talking too much and listening too little.

What would you like to achieve in 2013? Keep me and everyone else healthy and manage wrangle our income and outgo into a state of grace.

Describe your personal style. Casual and conservative to the point of boring.

10 What is your favorite city? Jerusalem, Israel. I often dream of Jerusalem.

11 Name something that always makes you smile. My dogs.

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 ♥  NEXT: RANDOM STUFF 

11 random things about me:

If I don’t have a book to read, I’m lost.

My hair turned white overnight, just like in books. I thought it was a myth. Guess not.

I actually can’t remember how many different surgeries I’ve had. I can’t remember why I had some of them, but I have the scars.

4  I was a total outcast as a kid.

I was an excessively popular adult.

I have regained my outcast status as a senior citizen.

My first job was poodle shampooer for a pet groomer.

I met my husband when I was 16 and he was 21. We got married when he was 48 and I was 43: the longest courtship in history.

My first love was Johnny Mathis; my second, Marlon Brando. No one can say I’m not eclectic.

10 I read between 5 and 10 books per week. I have done so since I was 9 or 10 years old.

11 If I don’t put the pizza in the over now, we are NOT going to have any dinner tonight.

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Ψ NOMINEES Ψ

My list of nominees, in  random order, ar:

j. alberta – My Favorite Westerns

Sharla – Catnip of Life

Rich Paschall – Sunday Night Blog

Bob Mielke – Northwest Photographer

Emily Guido – The Light-Bearer Series

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Congratulations to you all. I follow all of you, read all of you, enjoy all of you. You make the world the better place because you are in it.

Daily Prompt: My Favorite People, Weird Things and Kismet

How long were we apart? How long. An eternity? Or so it seems. Sometimes it feels like a strange dream I had as it fades in memory and so few people remember the places we lived or the language we spoke.

My home in Jerusalem.

My home in Jerusalem.

From the end of 1978 until August, 1987, I lived in Jerusalem, Israel. It is where I wanted to be and I was there by my own choice. I had wanted travel. I didn’t want to only travel. I wasn’t looking for a long vacation. I wanted to become part of another culture, another world, as different I could manage from the world I knew where I felt I was being swallowed by blandness.

Never did I have great yearnings for fame and fortune, though I wouldn’t have turned either away had they come knocking on my virtual door. But there are those of us who need to not only dream of other places, but experience them directly and apparently, I am one of them. My friends warned me I would suffer from culture shock. “Yes!” I said. I wanted culture shock. I wanted to be smacked in the face by a different lifestyle.

“You’ll be poor.”

My mother stepped in. “Marilyn’s never cared about things very much … she’ll be fine.” I didn’t know she knew that about me.

My friends sang three choruses of “What about me?” and I said “Buy a ticket. Visit.” Only Garry and one other friend … and my ex-husband (yes, we stayed friends until he died in 1993) took me up on the offer.

Garry, now my husband for 22 years (heading to 23) took me to the Four Seasons in New York and told me he’d really miss me and he would write. In all the years since we’ve been married, I’ve never seen him write a letter to anyone,  but he wrote me twice a week, sometimes more, for 9 years. Those letters became a lifeline. I used to call them my fan letters, but when everything seemed to be falling apart around my ears and the life I’d built shattered, there was Garry. No surprise that we hooked up as soon as I got back and were married a few months after my divorce came through. Life take its own time.

And then there was Cherrie, my friend. When I said I was leaving, she said she was too. If I was going to quit Doubleday, she wasn’t going to quit too. We have this parallel life thing going. She wanted Hawaii, wound up in Austin. We completely lost track of each other for all the years I was away.

JerusalemNow, we get to the good parts of the story. When I came back from Israel, I had nothing. A suitcase full of ratty tee shirts … a couple of hundred dollars … and my résumé. It was 1987 and the economy was beginning to move, especially in the Boston area where — coincidentally — Garry lived. Meanwhile, though, I got a job working for Grumman in Bethpage where among other strange and wonderful top-secret and not so secret jobs, I got to work with a bunch of NASA scientists on the design of the satellite catcher. We concluded that an effective satellite catcher had to have no fewer than 3 arms. Ignoring all recommendation, the U.S. government went cheap and made a catcher with 2 arms. It didn’t work. Mainly, as we had said, it wouldn’t catch satellites that were not rotating along a single axis. So, proving why humans have risen to the top of the food chain, our astronauts reached out and grabbed the spinning satellites with their dextrous hands and convenient opposable thumbs and easily caught them. Everything is weightless in space. We didn’t need a machine at all. Oops.

I also discovered we are hunting for anti-matter. Here’s a quoted interchange between Marilyn the Blogger in her incarnation as atomic editor anda  highly place NASA physicist:

Me: “I thought anti-matter was a science fiction thing.”

He: “Oh, no, it’s very real. We want it.”

Me: “And you are sending probes to the ends of the universe to try to collect it?” (Unspoken: “Isn’t that a little bit dangerous? Like, to the world which you might eradicate?”)

He: “Yes. We have several probes seeking it and hopefully they will be able to collect some and bring it back.”

This ranks high in the weird conversations of my lifetime department.

Meanwhile, I had met a couple of people at Grumman and one of them published his own jazz newsletter, telling people what groups were playing where on the Island. He asked me to write some stuff for it. I said “How about an astrology column?” I actually can do astrology, though I don’t anymore for a whole bunch of reasons, but astrology columns are so totally bogus that it’s effectively straight fiction-writing, but people actually believe you (how cool is that?).

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Ed, the guy with the newsletter, left them in pile free in the lobbies of buildings, local delis, and so on. And one day, my friend Cherrie who had returned from Austin and was living with her Mom while I was temporarily abiding in my ex-husband‘s guest room, was walking through the lobby of the building in which she worked and she saw there “The Jazz Ragg” and picked up a couple of copies.

There was a column by Marilyn Tripp. She read it and she said “That has GOT to be Marilyn, whatever her last name is now.” She knew my writing (we had worked together, after all), so she called my ex-husband and it turned out we were living a couple of blocks apart. Yay team. We have never been parted by more than a couple of hundred miles since … and after the Atlantic Ocean, that’s nothing.

By the Blackstone River

As for Garry, we got together, married, bought a house, had our lives fall apart, put our lives back together and now live in the middle of nowhere in an oak woods with many dogs, my son and his family, way more bills than money to pay them, and a legion of aches and pains. In compensation, we also have a really huge television and many computers — 6 on this level and 5 or 6 more downstairs. It’s compensation for destitution.

So although we were apart,Garry and Cherrie and me, we found each other and are busy getting old together. How strange and wonderful to get old with the same people with whom you were first young.

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Back in the city again …

Before we became country mice, we were city rats. Garry lived in Boston, downtown in Government Center, for 20 years, then another 10 in Roxbury. I lived in Jerusalem for 9 years, Boston for 3, then Roxbury (which is really part of Boston) for 10 … and then we took our show on the road and moved out here.

It is a bigger different than mere geography. It’s a completely different ambiance, a different texture. Ironically, although the air is cleaner, almost completely free of industrial pollutants, it is thick with pollen and dust. My asthma is far worse out here in the country among the trees and grasses than it ever was in town with the car fumes and chimney soot and all. That, and of course all the dog hair we have in the air and everywhere.

It’s pretty out here. We’ve got the river and the canal, waterfalls everywhere you look. Autumn, when we don’t get rained out, is glorious and you can stop at farm stands and get fresh organic veggies and fruits any time they are in season. We’ve got cows and horses, goats and a dizzying array of wildlife.

Deer, raccoon, the cheekiest chipmunks you’ve ever met … and then there are bats, rats, an infinite number of field mice. A bobcat with glow-in-the-dark eyes and coyotes that look like big friendly dogs. Nasty fishers with coats like mink and when the bobcat hasn’t eaten them all, rabbits. Squirrels, but fewer than there used to be before the bobcats. They are small but mighty hunters.

Irony again: the biggest, nastiest raccoon I ever met was on Beacon Hill, in our back walled garden. He was big, fat, and he wasn’t taking any crap from me. He informed me that the back patio belonged to him and I was disinclined to argue the point.

I never went back there again. At least the raccoons around here stay in their own part of town, or woods.