This is Reality

Yesterday, they told Ying that she must not eat until she’d had her CT scan. She was hungry but they made her wait until almost 7 PM. When she got back to the room, she was ravenous. She ate the Thai take-out self’s brother had brought for her. And she promptly got a stomach ache. Self went to the nurses’ station to ask if they could give her a heating pad or a hot water bottle. The nurse at the station said that the hospital had no hot-water bottles or heating pads or anything of that sort.

This morning, a tall, stoop-shouldered and slightly disheveled doctor came. He told Ying, “The results of your CT scan are not good– er, I mean, not bad. Not catastrophic. You are a very brave patient. I wish you the best of luck. And, is your family here?”

She was having trouble sleeping. Worry clouded her eyes. Self read to her a passage from Act I, Scene 1 of Tony Kushner’s Homebody/ Kabul. Granted, that is not the most uplifting of reading material, especially for someone in Ying’s condition, but self plunged bravely on (with voice somewhat tremulous from emotion):

From Homebody’s monologue:

There is an old Afghan saying, which, in rough translation from the Farsi, goes: “The man who has patience has roses. The man who has no patience has no trousers.” I am not fluent in Farsi, of course, I read this, and as I say it must be a rough translation. (She reads from the guidebook):

Alexander the Great summoned to the Kabul Valley a might army comprising tens of thousands of soldiers from Egypt, Persia and Central Asia and went on to conquer India. When Alexander’s own troops grew weary of battle, in 325 B.C., they forced their commander to desist from further conquest. Alexander died in 323 B.C., just as he was planning a return to the Hindu Kush to oversee the Grecianization of this most remarkable land.

When self’s brother and nephew arrived, self went home. And, perusing The Jerusalem Post, she encountered an article on p. 4 about Jaffa. With Ying’s worsening condition, the chances that self will ever make it there become increasingly remote. But she can imagine it: yes, she can really imagine it. The article was written by Dan Izenberg.

Rights Group: Israel is Driving Out Jaffa Arabs in Favor of Wealthy Jews

The Arab Association for Human Rights Read the rest of this entry »

News From Far and Near

Ying this morning very weak. Brother curt and unreachable. Self counting the days.

Six. Six more days until she returns to California.

This morning, managed to chat with hubby on Yahoo messenger. He mentioned that he’d picked up two packages from the front porch yesterday. Self asked him to hold them up to the webcam so that she could see. The first one was wrapped in brown Manila paper, and almost every inch of its surface was covered with large stamps. “That must be from Fr. Bernad!” self exclaimed. The second package was her author copies of Field of Mirrors. She asked hubby to hold one of the copies up to the webcam. Oh, what a ravishing cover! Self can hardly wait to get home to read it.

This morning, Ying’s tiny hospital room was packed with people. Ying herself was on the bed, pale, covered up entirely in a blanket. She looked so tiny, almost like nothing. She looked up when self entered the room and smiled. But the prevailing mood in the room was of such tension and gloom that self felt she’d only be in the way. So, she took a bus back home. And, not five minutes after she’d sank down on the couch, the buzzer rang and it was her brother and nephew. And her brother talked of moving to another apartment, but he did not ask self if she was coming along and did not tell her what would happen to her. So self has decided that, when her brother moves, she’ll stay on here in Ruppin Street. Hopefully, the owner won’t come back until after self leaves. Hopefully.

After brother returned, self had to go out. She walked all the way down Ben Yehuda one way, then crossed the street and wended back. At 116 Ben Yehuda was a tiny used bookstore called Landsberger’s. She went inside. She asked the young man behind the sales desk if he had any books of Jewish painters. “Like Rubin,” she added. But the books he showed her were very tattered, with pages splotched with all manner of stains.

Then she asked him if he had any books of Israeli poetry. “By younger poets,” she said. “I mean, by poets who are still alive.” And he handed her about five or six books, including one by Yehuda Amichai. But self, still not satisfied, asked if he could find her a book by a young woman poet. And he handed her a copy of the Jerusalem Review, but this one was dated 1998. Then he handed her a book of poetry and plays by Lea Goldberg. And self would have bought it, except it was 79 shekels. And self saw that the publisher was an American press. So then self decided she could probably order it cheaper from Amazon.

Instead, self bought a big fat anthology called 50 Stories From Israel, published by Yedioth-Ahronoth and Chemed Books. The stories span the 1940s through the 1990s. The youngest contributors — Gafi Amir, Yossi Avni, Orly Castel-Bloom, Judith Katzir — were born in the 1960s. The oldest — Nissim Aloni, Hanoch Bartov, Yossl Birstein, Yehudit Hendel — were born in the 1920s. The first story, Nissim Aloni’s “To Be A Baker,” begins like this:

When the summer vacation came round, my mother wanted me to go and stay with my uncle who was a teacher in the village. In the village the train wound its way between eucalyptus groves, and through cracks in the hard-baked earth that lined the road to the vineyard, silvery snakes would dart out their heads in surprise. One could hear the laugh of the handsome lad who had drowned in the orchard pond, and the nights were heavy with the scent of jasmine.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Still Shabbat: A Visit to the Old Cemetery

Six students went to the Dean in self’s absence to say they didn’t know where or when they were supposed to take their final (thereby putting her in the equivalent of Dean Dog-House). Self had arranged for a sub, she had waited until the last day of the quarter to leave for Tel Aviv, and still the unexpected always finds a way to trip her up. Now, self knows she must put all thoughts of school out of her head. One thing’s for certain: she’s never going to have this experience again, this traveling (mostly alone) in this strange and heartbreaking city. And all her emotions are pitched to such a fine point here, she should be writing like crazy, not worrying about what awaits her (probably anxiety, probably exhaustion) back home.

Self spent the entire afternoon with Ying. Afterwards, it took her a long time (almost 30 minutes) to hail a cab, because first she sat on a bench in a bus stop and read a book, being none too excited to head back to the apartment on Ruppin Street. When she did finally stand up and flag down a cab, he said he would charge her 30 shekel, which was five more than what she usually pays for the exact same route. So, thinking fast, self asked if he wouldn’t mind just dropping her off at Trumpeldor Cemetery instead. Whereupon, the following conversation ensued:

Taxi Driver: That’s the old cemetery.

Self: Yes. Can you take me there?

Taxi Driver: Why you want to go there?

Self: I want to see it. I’m curious.

Taxi Driver: It is closed. Closed for Shabbat.

Self: But can’t I peek through a gate or something?

The driver took off. Suddenly, we passed a long wall of light-colored stone. The cab stopped in front of an iron gate. The driver laughed, almost delightedly (self thought): “Here it is!”

Suddenly, he asked self, “You like Arabic music?” Self gawped at him with her mouth open. “This music (on the radio) — you like it?”

Self said she liked it, very much in fact.

The driver said, “It is Arabian lute. You know? We call it oud. I play it.”

Self said, “You do??? Where? In a club? Can I listen?”

And, the floodgates opened, dear blog readers. What ensued next was this: self got the address of a music store in Old Jaffa that sells CDs of Arabic music, and the titles of the driver’s three favorite CDs. Then, the address of the home of the driver’s music teacher (“Very famous!” the driver said. “Give him my name!”). Then, the address to the home of the French ambassador, on Toulouse Street in Old Jaffa. Then, the taxi driver’s telephone number. Then, the telephone number of the taxi driver’s son, who he said is “a famous comic book artist” in Tel Aviv, and who is only 25 years old!

Then, taxi driver asked self what she did. And self said (for the first time not even thinking twice) that she was a writer. And the taxi driver again laughed delightedly and pounded his steering wheel. And he asked, “From where?” And self would have said, “The Philippines,” but whenever she does, here, people always say, “You talk like an American.” So now she simply says, “California.”

And, eventually, self does get out of the cab, and the driver gives her many instructions on how to walk back to Ruppin street, and then she’s peering through the old iron gates, and she is fascinated by the fresh wreaths she sees on many of the graves, and she stays a long time because she wants to take it all in, even the views of the surrounding tenements and narrow alleyways, and self finds herself taking many, many pictures.

Then, she finds her way back to Ben Yehuda street and starts walking home. And on the way, she passes no less than three youth hostels, and stops at each one to inquire about their rates, for son has expressed a desire to visit Tel Aviv someday with Kramer. Now, because it has been such a moving day, self wishes to quote a passage about the Trumpeldor Cemetery from the Barbara Mann book, A Place in History:

The cemetery was founded during the 1902 cholera epidemic in Jaffa. Ottoman officials forbade the burial of the dead within the city walls, particularly given the proximity of the Jewish cemetery in Adjami to the center of town. Jewish community leaders requested an alternative, and Shimon Rokach was granted permission to purchase twelve dunam of land in the name of the Committee of the United Communities of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Groups, in what was then called the Lands of North Jaffa. According to a story, the area consisted largely of shifting sand and was thus difficult to cultivate. Legend also has it that holy books were buried in a special grave and two “black weddings” were held at the site in an effort to halt the epidemic. (It was believed that these community-sponsored ceremonies, in which orphans were married off, would lead God to look favorably upon the charity of the community, and have mercy, thus easing the epidemic) It was only five years later that the first plan to build a modern Jewish neighborhood outside of Jaffa was announced. In essence, then, Tel Aviv began with its dead. In the words of a historian, “the city followed its graves.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The Street: Excerpts From Shlonsky’s “In Tel Aviv”

Self’s first Shabbat. Self didn’t know that no buses ran after 4 or 5 p.m. A Filipina told her, while self stood waiting in vain at the stop for Bus No. 10 on Arlozoroff.

Ying was asleep when self left the hospital. Less voluble today, but her fever’s gone: her temperature was 36.5. But lymphoblasts — or whatever you call those cells doctors count to measure the body’s immune response — were low, “only 500” said the nurse. So, self had to wear a mask all day.

Now, back at Ruppin Street. This narrow thoroughfare is like a stage: all manner of people come and go. Self likes sitting on the balcony, where she can enjoy the breeze while listening to Astrud Gilberto on her brother’s ipod. Motorcycles spurt up and down the street, doors slam, car engines sputter and turn over. And always, there are voices.

Nephew’s back from a trip to Haifa with self’s brother. All excitement: he wants to share his views of Haifa, the bomb shelters and the beautiful palace with the pink trees. Then, he shows me his newest invention: nutella with yoghurt, something he dubs a “nutgurt.” Self has to admit, it looks dee-lish.

Tomorrow self wants to go to Old Jaffa. Nephew told her it was only a 25-minute cab ride. But how much is a 25-minute cab ride? 100 shekel? Self has to husband her finances sooo carefully, especially as hubby’s tales from his office grow increasingly bleak and the economic forecasts in The Jerusalem Post spout doom.

Ah, but let’s deal with that when self returns, in another week. In the meantime, this is an excerpt from a series of poems by Shlonsky — a member of what Barbara Mann calls the first generation of Hebrew modernists in Palestine — from the series called “In Tel Aviv”:

Street lamps before evening falls
Ah– who lit you, yellowed eyes?
For what did you bring, empty auto, untimely,
a strange gust to the wine house?

Hackerbrau pictures on the walls,
overturned glasses on the bar.
And in a neglected nook a clock drowses,
and a Jew asleep at the counter.

I, a Jew, came for no reason,
I, a Jew, returning home,
an empty car shifts another moment,
and silence returns to what it was.

And a snoring shofar roars,
A scratch in the skin of silence.
And only streetlights still throw
Yellow rings to the earth.

Oh, the Twists and Turns of Fate

This morning, self read in her Barbara Mann book about something called “The Historical Museum of Tel Aviv – Jaffa.” After looking it up on the web, self found that it was on the exact same street as the Rubin Museum. And since self has already aced taking the No. 4 bus — which has a stop just one block from this apartment — self decided to chance going there (putting off for the time being all thoughts of checking out hotel in Old Jaffa— self has now decided that the only attitude she should adopt in her present circumstances is: Que sera, sera).

So, self set off bright and early, and she did get to Bialik Street, and she again traversed the narrow edge of the sidewalk that had not been dug up by all the construction, and she arrived at said building, and it was very old and dilapidated, and there was a sign on a wall next to it, but as the sign was in Hebrew self knew not what the sign said. Instead, she marched smartly up the steps and put a hand on the door handle, and found that the door was locked. Since the door was made of glass, self peered inside and saw a circular hallway with old photographs and musty-looking memorabilia. In fact, hallway reminded self very much of her grandfather’s house on Burgos Street in Bacolod City, a house self had known all her life as “The Big House.” Anyhoo, self also noticed that there was a buzzer, and this she contrived to ring — twice. But no butler or receptionist appeared. So self had to make her way back out to the dusty street. And she had to walk forlornly to the bus stop (stopping first at a shoe store and then at a store selling kitchen gadgetry, where she was very much tempted to buy silicon potholders in the shape of rhinoceri — self thinks that is the correct way to pluralize “rhinocerus,” though it sounds strange — but these were going for 40 shekels each, which self computed as something like US$ 11.50 each. Never mind). And then she went home for a quick lunch before heading to the hospital to see Ying.

And, as it turned out, Mila the caregiver was also at home having a quick lunch, and self smelled her frying something delicious. But since self had been admonished by Dear Bro to remember at all times that Mila is not there to serve anyone except Ying (as if self, after all these years of living in the States, would ever dream of asking someone to serve her), self heated up a little slice of quiche in the toaster oven.

And then self set off for the hospital. Since self knows that she is in poor physical shape and cannot take the humongous walks that she tried her first two days here, and since she doesn’t want to use up her cash on cab rides, she decides to take the bus. Eureka! Her brother tells her there are these little mini-vans wandering around the city, and each follow a different coded route: orange, yellow, etc. And he says they are much cheaper than cabs. And why he only felt moved to divulge this information today is completely beyond self. But she did find one of those things and she arrived at the hospital quickly and all she had to do was pay 5 shekels.

And self expected to find a very haggard-looking Ying, because everytime Dear Bro returns from the hospital he looks on the edge of collapse, and the little boy is teary-eyed, and Mila sounds depressed. But to self’s extreme bewilderment, Ying is sitting up in her bed, very bright-eyed, and greets self with a warm smile when self walks into the room.


“Aren’t you sick?” self blurts out.

“Well, it comes and goes,” Ying says.

And then we partake in the two-hour gabfest to end all gabfests.

Ying confides in self that she is jealous of the closeness between Dear Bro and self’s nephew. Self assures Ying that from, all self has observed, nephew is indeed very very attached to Ying.

“No,” Ying says. “I meant: I am jealous of the way my husband is so affectionate with our son. He never hugs or kisses me anymore.”

(Self resolves to smack Dear Bro at the first opportunity. Here is a woman with no hair and fragile physique, and Dear Bro is still playing this ridiculous game of transference or what-have-you)

Self says smartly, “Oh, it’s a thing with Filipino men. They can never show you how much they love you. Physically, that is. But, just think: every time YH hugs F, he is showing you that he really wants to hug you.” Which self knows sounds absolutely ridiculous, dear blog readers, but is absolutely true. Self knows from long experience. Because hubby is exactly the same way.

So Ying gives self a big smile. And then she asks self if self would like to see pictures of Ying’s baby girl, Anita. And self is all agog, and Ying opens her laptop, and there self sees the cutest, most precious little girl that one could ever imagine: a girl with fair, fair skin and even fairer hair, and the cutest pointed chin. Self says, “She looks just like you!”

And Ying says, “You think so? But she has YH’s nose and cheeks and lips!”

And self looks again, closely, and realizes that this is so.

And then Ying shows self pictures of her new dog, Tiger, a mini-Dachshund. And self sees as well pictures of Ying’s other dog, her beagle Burmie. And self and Ying exchange beagle stories. And agree vehemently that beagles are not too bright. But she and self both waxed ecstatic over a beagle’s winning the latest Westminster Dog Show.

And then Ying removes her stylish scarf (turns out Dearest Mum has presented Ying with a whole array of these stylish scarves), and self sees that there is a very soft fuzz covering Ying’s entire head. Actually, self tells Ying, “You look very good with no hair. It’s like an early Sinead O’Connor look. Or a Natalie Portman look from ‘V is for Vendetta.’ ”

Ying says she misses having long hair. At this point, Mila comes in. And since Mila has very fashionable hair — short, with spiky ends — self tells Ying that she should get a haircut like Mila’s. When her hair grows in, that is.

Two nurses drop by to say hello, and they are both young and friendly and tell Ying she looks beautiful (which she does, even with no hair).

And, before self knows it, two hours have passed by. And self tells Ying she will stop by again, perhaps as soon as tonight. But there’s a concert she wants to catch. At the Felicja Blumental Music Center on 26 Bialik Street (which is quickly becoming self’s hangout of choice in Tel Aviv).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The Beaches, The Land, The City

Self trying her best to push all negativity out of her mind. She’s in the kitchen, sipping tea, listening to her brother talk in his slow, sonorous way to a hapless secretary who is in some sort of muddle about his return ticket to Manila. In the usual complicated way of self’s family (where nothing is straightforward, and everyone goes flapping around like chickens without heads), self’s brother and nephew are returning to Manila the same day as self, though a few hours later (So we cannot share a taxi: this self discovered after timidly asking — after all, it would save them both 130 shekels, but brother gave her such a look of open-mouthed amazement that the utterance died away in her mouth almost as soon as she had uttered it). In the meantime, self’s Dearest Mum, Ying’s baby daughter, and the baby’s yaya are arriving on April 2 and will stay the rest of the month of April.

In addition, on April 1, we are losing this apartment. So brother has been running all over Tel Aviv the last few days, hunting for a place that is “nice” and “suitable” to house Dearest Mum. This morning, self suggested she move out, to ease the congestion (brother had been hinting, none too subtly, that she do so, the last few days), and brother acquiesced with alacrity. So self went on the internet and found a very cheap hotel in Old Jaffa. When she showed the hotel website to her brother, and asked if he thought it would be safe (The website said the hotel was perfect for the budget traveler who was not bothered by noise and who didn’t mind being next to the flea market), brother said impatiently that the hotel looked fine. He, however, had found a nice apartment for Dearest Mum, a place where she would “feel good” about staying, and not be frightened (Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! And would the elimination of one person — self — make so much difference to the “crowding” he is so afraid of subjecting Dearest Mum to ???)

This morning, the minute Dear Bro left the apartment (leaving nephew behind, for the fourth day in a row, so that the poor kid became cranky and cried), self cracked her brains how to entertain the poor child and decided on a walk on the beach. This fabled beachfront had been invisible to self since her arrival, last Sunday, though brother was simply amazed that self had not picked herself up and walked there, scoffing, “It’s only two blocks away!” Forgetting, of course, that self visits Ying everyday, walks to the hospital and back (five miles each way) to save on taxi fare, plays games with his son, keeps the child company when he is afraid/ bored/ cranky/ tired and what-have-you. And the child is so weepy! As is understandable, when his mother is so sick. But being with her nephew round-the-clock makes self long exceedingly for son, who is such an angel of intuition that he knows when she is thinking/ writing and holds his tongue, and only opens his mouth when he senses his mother has returned to earth. (Son, self promises, I’ll take you here one day. I will)

So here’s what happened on self’s walk with nephew: We looked for a landmark called the Opera Tower, and headed toward it. And the day was gray and blustery, and along the beachfront directly in front of us, a young woman turned her head and we saw she was Filipina. And this comely lass was walking hand in hand with a rather stooped, aged gent in a gray suit. And self counted two McDonald’s on the stretch between the Sheraton Moriah and another Sheraton, and in between these somewhat tawdry-looking hotels (putting self in mind of Torremolinos, Spain, circa 1996) was the U. S. Embassy, an edifice of light-colored stone, with very well-muscled guards in dark blue uniforms standing with rifles at the ready, in case anyone should be planning an attack landing on the beach. Nephew asked if self would like to “drop by,” after all it was her embassy. Self said she wasn’t feeling inclined to do so at the moment.

Nephew got tired very quickly, and insisted that they return to the apartment. And self was going brain-dead with his non-stop prattling, so she agreed. And as soon as they were back, self sought relief by again picking up the Barbara Mann book, A Place in History, and on p. 177 she found this poem commemmorating a woman’s arrival in Palestine:

“Tel Aviv, 1935”

    by Leah Goldberg

The masts on the housetop then, were
like the masts of Columbus’ ships, and
every raven that perched on their tips
announced a different shore.

And the kit-bags of the travelers
walked down the streets, and the
language of an alien land was plunged
into the hamsin-days like the blade of
a cold knife.

How could the air of a small city
support so many childhood memories,
loves that were shed, that were stripped

Like pictures turning black inside a
camera, they all turned inside out: pure
winter nights, rainy summer nights of
overseas, and shadowy mornings of
great cities.

And the sound of steps behind your
back drummed marching songs of
foreign troops; and — so it seemed — if
you but turn your head, there’s your
town’s church floating in the sea.

A Visit to the Rubin Museum, 14 Bialik Street

A miracle. Self dragged her 10-year-old nephew to a museum. The Rubin Museum on No. 14 Bialik Street. Self managed to find the place after inquiring from a woman waiting at a bus stop on Ben Yehuda Ave. The woman said, “You are going in the wrong direction! It is that way! Near Allenby!” Then, she made as if to grasp self’s arm and said, “Come on the bus with me! I will take you there!” But a quick check of self’s wallet revealed — nothing, not a single shekel. In fact, self had been on her way to the money-changers on the corner. So she waved the woman on, and as the woman got on the bus, she turned back to self and yelled, “Take the No. 4 bus! It is about eight stops away!”So, with this very heartening beginning, self changed her money, then went back to the bus stop with nephew, and the very next bus was the No. 4 bus, and she and nephew got off at the corner of Allenby and Bialik. And someone seemed to have torn up all the pavement on Bialik Street, but there were a few inches left of sidewalk along which self led her nephew, and when we arrived at No. 14, which was a small, nondescript house, there were about 30 or 40 high school kids gathered at the entrance, waiting for the museum to open. Then, self remembered that she hadn’t yet had breakfast. So, since the museum wouldn’t open for about another 20 minutes, self led nephew back down the broken-down street, and found a café on Allenby. And, as luck would have it, this coffee house completely won over nephew with its mouth-watering displays of pastries and breakfast rolls — nephew had been exceedingly nervous with self’s adventurous ways and had been whining to be taken back to the apartment for the last 15 minutes — and self was able to get a table, and she had her first coffee in Israel, along with a plate of something called borekas filled with kashkaval cheese, and these little dumplings were simply to die for. And nephew had a kind of tart with apricots and peach slices on top, and he was in heaven too. And then, feeling excellent, we wended our way back to the Rubin Museum, and it was open. And the crowd of gaggling schoolchildren had mysteriously vanished, because we (and an American woman) were the only ones in the museum, and this is what we discovered:

    Gorgeous landscapes and portraits by a man who believed that “even the shade is luminous.”
    What he painted: Jaffa; the orange groves; the sand and the sea.

In a short film that self and her nephew watched before beginning our tour of the galleries, the painter uttered the following:

    “I didn’t learn to paint; I learned how to fulfill my dreams.”
    “Elsewhere there is light and there is shade; Here there is no shade. It was all desert, sea and air. Everything around was yellow, brown, gray and black.”

And these were among the paintings and sculptures that self saw and loved:

    “Madonna of the Poor””Olive Grove””View From a Window””The Open Window””Pomegranates on My Windowsill””Jacob Wrestling with the Angel””Self-Portrait with a Flower””Jerusalem, 1923”

The book about Rubin that they sell in the gift shop was more than the entire contents of self’s wallet, so she contented herself with buying four postcards, which she divided with her nephew. The ones she got to keep: “Tel Aviv, 1922” and “Orange Groves Near Jaffa.” Self’s brother said he’d been to Jaffa the day before she arrived and pronounced it “nothing much,” but self decides that she’ll get there. Even if she has to walk, she’ll get there.

Freud’s Discussion of “The Uncanny”, and a Few Examples From Self’s Own Experiences

Reading, this hot Tel Aviv afternoon, Chapter Two of Barbara E. Mann’s A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv, and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space, a publication of the Stanford Series in Jewish History and Culture.

Chapter Two is entitled, “The Zionist Uncanny: Reading the Old Cemetery on Trumpeldor” and begins with a series of epigraphs, one of which is:

The city is constructed by its gaps. — Stephen Barber, Fragments of the European City, 1995

A little further on there is discussion of Freud’s essay “The Uncanny,” which Mann says “is devoted to a discussion of literary works, for it is within the realm of the imagination that the uncanny achieves its greatest disturbances.”

Quoting Freud: “An uncanny effect is often easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes.”

And here are self’s own experiences of this “uncanny,” since arriving here at Ruppin St. in Tel Aviv, early Sunday morning:

Self’s brother is becoming remarkably like self’s Dear Departed Dad. And self didn’t get on particularly well with Dear Departed Dad, it suddenly occurs to self now, of all places, when she is staying in an apartment with brother. Last night, self, wanting to make herself useful, asked what Ying would like to eat. Self offered to fry some ground beef with garlic and mushrooms for Ying. Brother came into the kitchen and said no, he had already decided we would have pasta carbonara for dinner. Ying’s voice came floating in from the living room: “I think ground beef with mushrooms sounds good.”

Self and 10-year-old nephew had lunch in a mall adjacent to the hospital. Ying developed fevers in the night and had to be rushed back in this morning. She was fine when we first checked her in, but as the day progressed she seemed to get weaker and weaker. Finally, self offered to take nephew out for lunch. So nephew led self through a glass walkway from the hospital to the mall (which surprisingly reminded self so much of malls in Manila — the busyness, the somewhat garish decorations, the vendors hawking wares on tables in the corridor). And then nephew led self to a fast-food court (Thank goodness for this plucky little boy, who only arrived in Tel Aviv a few days before self), and there self had an array of choices, ranging from Chinese and Japanese to shish kebab. Nephew chose lamb shish kebab, and self would have had that, too, except that the dish consisted of two humongous sticks, a huge mound of yellow rice, fried potatoes, and salad, and self knew she wouldn’t be able to finish it. “Why not shawarma?” nephew suggested (Truly, the kid is a godsend). And when self had the said shawarma, it tasted — odd. Well, at least it didn’t give her a bad stomach. And suddenly nephew raised his head and said, “There’s yaya. What is she doing here?” And, indeed, there was the Filipina maid self’s brother had engaged to take care of Ying, and she was in an electronics shop, chatting with a salesman. This yaya is pretty hip: She wears tight red T-shirts with sequins, and there is a very elaborate tattoo of a tiger and a rose at the base of her neck, between her shoulder blades. Also, true to that indefinable radar that tells a servant when a visitor has no status, she has ignored self ever since self’s arrival in the household. Nephew and self watched silently as the yaya finishing chatting up the salesman and then proceeded to the Chinese food stall where she bought two big boxes of food. Then she wandered off again. Uncanny, indeed.

The final uncanny: the apartment itself, in a quiet residential street parallel to Ben Yehuda Ave. On the narrow walk up to the apartment entrance, self recognizes a passion flower vine: she bought one just a few weeks before leaving California. This one curls its intricate tendrils around an iron railing; it hasn’t bloomed yet. There are also Mexican orange trees. The landing itself is floored with worn and broken tiles, and everything in the apartment smells of age and wear, from the rugs, to the kitchen (tiny sink, tiny stove, chipped mugs) and the old photographs, some of them seemingly pre-war. Self’s brother tells her that he has to vacate the apartment next month, unfortunately, and has begun to look for other apartments in the area.

What final uncanniness will self experience tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the remaining 11 days of her stay? Perhaps the most uncanny is waiting, waiting for the arrival of Dearest Mum who, self just discovered, is coming after all: April 2.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

What Self Read (At the Frick, On the Plane)

Brother has gone to the hospital to fetch Ying, who is being allowed to return home (to the apartment) this afternoon. Yes!!! In the meantime, self, who seeks only to crash on a mattress on the floor of the apartment — since she has not slept a wink for over 24 hours — has drawn up a list of all the various books/ magazines/ newspapers she has read in the course of two (very busy) days, starting from Friday, 21 March, when self embarked on the plane for Newark, NJ up to today, Easter Sunday, in Tel Aviv:

Self has finished reading The Bookseller of Kabul (Was able to read straight through to the end while on the plane from New York to Tel Aviv, and while most of the other passengers were sleeping). What a fascinating, heartbreaking book. Self thinks the images of the bookseller’s daughters and wives will remain with her for a very long time.

Read, from cover to cover, the latest issue of People Magazine (featuring on the cover a radiant J Lo, doting over her newborn twins)

Read, in the Frick, while standing in humble obeisance before Parmigianino’s seductive portrait of an unknown lady: several pages by the museum curator, speculating on the model’s identity, which was no help as all the curator did was surmise that the painting was either that of a) a bride; b) a courtesan; or c) a complete figment of the painter’s imagination (which last suggestion self thought was the most un-interesting)

Browsed the Friday New York Times (in which she read that new J-horror flick “Shutter” is not quite a success — in the opinion of reviewer A. O. Scott)

Began reading the next book on her list (shortly after arriving at the apartment where her brother is staying in Tel Aviv), George Howe Colt’s The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home

Began perusing last Friday’s edition of The Jerusalem Post, which was lying on top of the grand piano in the living room of the apartment. Before self begins quoting from an article in said newspaper, she wishes to mention the reading activities of her seatmates on the two planes she was a passenger on:

On the plane from SFO to Newark, NJ:
Boy on her left was reading a many-paged tome which looked to be science fiction, judging from the one-word chapter headings (one went something like Owenaira?). Boy on her right (who looked like a devout student from a yeshiva) was reading issue after issue of Gun Magazine. Self surreptitiously glanced over at the articles he was reading. One was on handguns and had accompanying illustration of a Glock semi-automatic. Another was on “Ammo for Handguns.”

On the plane from Newark, NJ to Tel Aviv:
Seatmate on her left, a middle-aged man with gray hair, scribbled endlessly, page after page, on small pads of yellow ruled paper. And then read USA Today and Newsweek.

And now to the quote for the day, from the Jerusalem Post of Friday, 21 March 2008:

‘Speak English’ signs approved at Philly Shop, article by Patrick Walters (AP):

Dateline: Philadelphia — The owner of a famous cheese-steak shop did not discriminate when he posted signs asking customers to speak English, a city panel ruled Wednesday.

In a 2-1 vote, a Commission on Human Relations panel found that two signs at Geno’s Steaks telling customers, “This is America: WHEN ORDERING PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH, do not violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

Shop owner Joe Vento has said he posted the signs in October 2005 because of concerns over immigration reform and an increasing number of people in the area who could not order in English.

Vento has said he never refused service to anyone because they couldn’t speak English. But critics argued that the signs discourage customers of certain backgrounds from eating at the shop.

Commissioners Roxanne E. Covington and Burt Siegel voted to dismiss the complaint, finding that the sign does not communicate that business will be “refused, withheld or denied.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The Day Before Self’s Departure

Self is stuffed!

First was the lunch in Pasta Moon with cuz Maitoni, nephew Enrique, Maitoni’s cousin (on her mother’s side) Leah, and Leah’s baby daughter, Alyssa Rose. The day was bee-yoo-ti-ful (if a little chilly). Self thinks that Enrique’s dish was the most interesting: porcini mushrooms with papardelle. Enrique declared how he really loved mushrooms. Self asked him which were his favorite mushrooms and he named those exceedingly big mushrooms which you can fry like steaks — what are they called? Portobellos?

Leah had eggplant parmigiana, while self and Maitoni shared a seafood pasta dish and a beet salad (both good).

Then, self took all to her favorite store on Half Moon Bay’s Main Street, Half to Have It, where cousin bought a three-foot long quill feather for her daughter, a student at U of Penn. Cousin was looking everywhere for an egg cracker, or whatever you call that French implement that perfectly slices the tops off hard-boiled eggs, but instead ended up buying one of those newfangled flexible plastic steamers that are so popular because they will not scratch Calphalon pans. And then self bought an Epicurean Cutting Board to replace her old one that is cracked ($24.99). Then, we all wended on back to Redwood City.

Self and cuz left Enrique in the house to watch basketball games, and we wended off to San Carlos, where self showed cuz The Chef Shop on Laurel Street and cousin gazed admiringly at the huge Viking stoves. Then self showed cousin her favorite clothing store (Claire de Lune — closed, boo) and her favorite pastry place (Chocolate Mousse, but cousin said that one of her sacrifices for Lent was to forego all sweets).

Then, we picked up niece G from her dorm at 1115 Campus Drive East, aka The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and niece was wearing the cutest green patent leather ballerina slippers and the cutest plaid coat. Then, we all met up with hubby and had dinner at fave local restaurant New Kapadokia. And there was a camera crew filming inside. And a sign by the door of the restaurant warned that this evening, there would be a television crew filming, so any customers who still elected to eat at the restaurant were in effect providing their consent to being filmed. And all of us agreed that we all wanted that. To be filmed, that is.

So we went inside and made a complete spectacle of ourselves (as only Filipinos know how to do). That is, we talked very loudly and gaily, and pretty soon the cameras were ignoring the other tables and were zooming in on all our faces. Well, not all our faces, exactly: on Maitoni’s and Georgina’s faces. And Enrique then chose to engage self in very earnest discussion of self’s latest book. And self thought it was so sweet, the way he kept insisting (in a very loud voice) that self give him the title of her book. And he declared it to be “absolutely the best love story since Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet” (ha ha ha ha ha!!!)

And then afterwards, the manager of the restaurant informed us that we would all be coming out on TV — on a show on KQED called “Check, Please,” that airs on Thursday evenings. And we were all very excited.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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