Jerusalem, Bethlehem: 2008

Self is looking through her humongous archive of photographs from past trips when she comes across these pictures she took during a brief trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 2008. She’d flown to Tel Aviv because Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying was sick and being treated in Ichilov Hospital. Self left after two weeks, but Ying herself never got to return home. She passed away in Tel Aviv, Sept. 11, 2008.

Ying and self shared many adventures: in Bangkok, in Angkor Wat, in Bohol. She was the best traveling companion. Self remembers Ying telling her, before a trip to Angkor Wat: “You are far more adventurous than any of your brothers.” To which the only appropriate response was the ironic, evil laugh: BWAH. HA. HA!

During her time in Tel Aviv, self signed up for a day tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. These are her pictures from that day:

A Church in Bethlehem, Not Sure of the Name

A Church in Bethlehem, Not Sure of the Name

Another Church Whose Name Self Doesn't Remember

Another Church Whose Name Self Doesn’t Remember

Bazaar, Jerusalem

Bazaar, Jerusalem

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Inside 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Help, someone!  Anyone!  It’s too much!  Self can’t seem to stop posting on this week’s Photo Challenge: INSIDE!  She’s obviously in some kind of zone . . .

Speaking of zone: What. Ever. Happened. to. That. Malaysian. Plane???

Don’t get her started!

Anyhoo, here’s the part of The Daily Post prompt that self is trying to focus on today:  Finding images of a thing inside something else.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino:  Self was there as part of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino: Self was there to participate in the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

Inside a church in Bethlehem.  Self was there in 2008.

Inside a church in Bethlehem. Self was there in 2008.

A friend of Dearest Mum’s had let us stay in his apartment while Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying was being treated for leukemia at Ichilov Hospital.  This was in 2008, which turned out to be a watershed year for self, in so many different ways.  Self will never forget Tel Aviv.  Never, ever, ever.

painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv

Painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv:  Is that a gun inside the bird’s mouth?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Creaking Chairs,” a story by Igal Mossinsohn (from 50 STORIES FROM ISRAEL: AN ANTHOLOGY, Edited by Zisel Stavi)

Self bought the anthology when she was in Tel Aviv.  She found it in a bookstore only a few minutes’ walk from the apartment on Rupin Street.  It was 2008.  Beloved Sister-in-law Ying was being treated in Ichilov Hospital; she would live a few more months.

The story self began reading this morning is by Igal Mossinsohn (1917-1994), translated from the Yiddish by Sara Friedman.  The main character is Gabriel Malin, an aging actor who, one day, is unexpectedly approached by a young girl from the kibbutz.  The girl dreams of joining the theater and has come to Malin for guidance.

The scene has the girl telling Malin:

“I didn’t think it would be as smooth as olive oil all the way.  Difficulties?  Obviously.  But the question is, can one study, improve?  Will they give me a chance to try my hand at it?”

Gabriel Malin walked over to her, laid his hands on her narrow shoulders, felt her hair lightly brushing them.  She saw faded eyes, lashless lids.  The smell of cognac drifted from his mouth mixed with that of tobacco and shaving soap.

“You have a life to live,” he said.  “Listen, my girl, it’s no life at all, don’t you understand?”

She understood nothing.  For a moment she thought he was reciting a part.  Theatricals, she thought, should more properly be confined to the stage, while in life it was preferable to speak simply and not dig unfamiliar fingers into her shoulders, not to fix lashless eyes into her own.

“Old people shuffle around onstage,” he added.  “Old!  If they had trained a younger generation to learn from their experience, had encouraged them, well then . . .  But . . .  A man onstage must be credible, convincing!  The stage offers an illusion — but when a fifty-year-old actor plays a youth — and plays him badly, what would you call that?  Still, the audience keeps coming.  Thanks to whom, may I ask?  Thanks to a few sublime actors.  There you are.  For it is art!  It is sacred! No one has the power to drag Gabriel Malin off the stage, because Gabriel Malin loves the artificial lights, the costumes, the dusty floorboards, the audience, even if, possibly, he is inept.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Infinite 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

From The Daily Post:

    Capture “moments of wonder . . . when the infinite catches us by surprise. We stumble upon it in things both big and small: on the beach, staring into the horizon; in the depth of a loved one’s eyes; or even drowning in the emptiness of a Berlin subway car.”

Self thinks faith has a lot to do with experiencing the infinite:

Self dredged up the courage to ring the bell, too (though she couldn't ask anyone to take her picture while doing it)

The Shiva Temple at Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh:  After watching a dozen devotees reach up to ring the bell, self dredged up the courage to ring the bell, too (though she couldn’t ask anyone to take her picture while doing it)

Mountains, like these self saw in Dharamsala, which she visited in January 2012, are infinite:

Another view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

A view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

And this last picture is of a bazaar in the city of Jerusalem.  Self visited in April 2008, because Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying was receiving treatment for her leukemia in Tel Aviv.  Of all the pictures she took there, she loves this one the most.  Because a bazaar is as integral to a city’s life as churches are, and springs from impulses as ancient as faith.

In a bazaar in Jerusalem, April 2008

In a bazaar in Jerusalem, April 2008

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: Foreshadow

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge prompt (“Foreshadow”) is another tricky one!  It begins with a very lyrical description:

Cut to the hot summer of 2012.  We could see it coming in our rearview mirror:  this bruise blooming, darkening the sky as it gained speed and intensity.  It turned bright sunshine into strange green light as we raced down the highway in a bid to outrun a Canadian prairie thunderstorm.

Well, self will give it a shot:

Rose cooking dinner, Apartment on Rupin Street, Tel Aviv 2008:  She decided to go TNT and ran away.

Rose cooking dinner, Apartment on Rupin Street, Tel Aviv 2008: She decided to run away.

Tel Aviv, 2008:  Self’s family was there to support Dear Ying, whose leukemia was being treated at Ichilov Hospital.  Dearest Mum brought with her a Filipina helper named Rose.

Rose later took her things and left without telling anyone.  The thing self remembers most clearly about her is that she liked to talk about her boyfriend(s) and favored tight jeans.  She said that Filipinos liked to hang out in the bus stations in Tel Aviv and you could even find Filipino food vendors there.

More of That Cover for THE LEOPARD, self's favorite read (so far) of 2013

More of That Cover for THE LEOPARD, self’s favorite read (so far) of 2013

Self’s favorite read (so far) in 2013 has been a novel that lovingly captures the decline of a noble family’s fortunes in late 19th century Sicily.  It’s called The Leopard, and it was written by Giuseppe di Lampedusa.  The cover was exquisite:  the back half of a striding leopard and, in the lower right-hand corner, an up-ended crown.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Second Looks

A Church in Bethlehem (2008)

New York City Skyline (2006)

Backyard, Redwood City, California (2006)

Plan for the morrow:  watching Liam Neeson’s new movie, “The Grey” —  or, as Eric Snider puts it on his blog:  “Liam versus Lobo”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

About Karl Taro Greenfeld, Again

Several months ago, self encountered a mind-blowing short story.  It was in One Story.  The author’s name was Karl Taro Greenfeld.  The title of the story was “Partisans.” It was set in a future that seemed a cross between “Mad Max” and Gallipoli.  After self finished reading it, she wrote on the cover: LOVED.

Then she looked for the author’s bio, which is usually on the last page. But this time, it wasn’t there. Self had to resort to google.

What’s funny is, after blogging about the story, she got a comment from Yosef Halper, who owns Halper’s Books in Tel Aviv (Self met Yosef on her very last day in Tel Aviv, over three years ago — Tel Aviv is her next favorite city in the whole world, after Bacolod!)  Yosef actually knew Karl Taro Greenfeld. Yes, indeed, Greenfeld had come into Halper’s Books.


Now, as self is plowing through what she calls her “pile of stuff” (grown to humongous proportions the last few weeks, as self has been so busy writing and wiping up after The Ancient One), she encounters a story from One Story, and an extra: a black and white picture of a man sporting goatee and shades, who turns out to be none other than Karl Taro Greenfeld.

OK, that is a trés cool author picture, dear blog readers.  But there is still something wrong with it:  the caption, “Introducing Karl Taro Greenfield,” mis-spells the author’s last name.  It’s Greenfeld, not Greenfield.

At the back of the postcard is the author’s bio, this time his name spelled “Greenfeld.”

Here’s the bio:

Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of five books, including the collection Now Trends, coming later this year from Hobart’s Short Flight/ Long Drive books, Boy Alone, a Washington Post Best Book of 2009, Speed Tribes and China Syndrome.  A long time writer and editor for The Nation, Time, and Sports Illustrated, he was the editor of Time Asia and among the founding editors of Sports Illustrated China.  His writing has appeared in numerous anthologies including Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction and has been widely translated.  Since taking up fiction writing in 2006, his stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, The Paris Review, Commentary, The Sun, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, The New York Tyrant and American Short Fiction, among other publications.

Stay tuned.

Where Are They Now?

Maloy, Hong Kong 2006: She claimed she frequently saw Chow Yun Fat shopping in a neighborhood street market

Pepe at the Aberdeen Club, Hong Kong 2006: The last self heard, he had graduated from Carnegie Mellon and was working in San Ramon, California

Rose cooking dinner, Apartment on Rupin Street, Tel Aviv 2008: She decided to go TNT and ran away.

Saw “Biutiful,” Cried Buckets

See, it doesn’t work if Javier Bardem plays a hunk.  No!  He has to play a long-suffering sort, someone who is mystifyingly attached to a woman with an ugly nose, who mis-treats him in every possible way.  That is the Javier Bardem we all know and love!  (And, also, it helps to see him in a movie with sub-titles, as one can forget about his voice and simply focus on that physique; and those hooded eyes; and that shambling air.  And you, too, like self, can ask:  why why why does no woman around him seem to notice his hot-ness?  Well, that is what you call “suspension of disbelief.”  A really gigantic suspension of disbelief!)

Self is quite the Iñarritu newbie, as she can’t remember the last movie she’s seen him direct (might have been over a decade ago).  By the last half hour, though, self was simultaneously appalled and grieving, and she kept clutching her hair, and wiping her cheeks, and trying not to sob in such an obvious manner, which caused her to make audible gulps …  Woman seated next to self was also weeping, self could tell because of the way she kept making surreptitious movements with her hands across her cheeks.  As if self hasn’t seen this sort of behavior enacted hundreds of times in her long, long movie-going life!

Oh, Americans!  No use pretending our tear ducts are not getting a full work-out in this movie!

Self also thought she would faint when she saw the people on the ceiling.

Then, self was suddenly seized with a mad impulse to return to Tel Aviv, city of Dear Departed Ying’s last couple of months.  She was an angel, self saw her when she was five months from dying.  In April she still had energy and vitality.  But at the end of a long day, she waited for self with hungry eyes and listened avidly as self made up hilarious tales of her mis-adventures all around the city. (But self’s attachment to Tel Aviv, and to Ying, was no joke.  She loved the city from the start, from the first moment.  And she also loved Ying and still misses her terribly.  She said as much to Dearest Mum, on her last night in Manila, only a few weeks ago)

And in fact, as self left the theater — walking rather quickly, because there was a sign posted by the ticket clerk’s station saying that movie-goers should not park in the slots reserved for xxxx law firm, and that the tow warning was in effect 24/7 (Self wishes she had seen the warning before she parked, but of course that was impossible, as she would have had to go all the way inside the theater lobby before she saw it.  And after she saw the sign, she proceeded to watch the movie, thinking she might run out and check on her car from time to time.  But after the movie began, self didn’t feel like missing even a few minutes of this two-hour and forty-five minute weep-athon:  yes, even with the threat of having her car towed hanging like the Sword of Damocles over her head!) —  she began to formulate a wild plan.

Even before she’d arrived at her car, self had grabbed her cell phone and begun text-ing niece G:  “Want to come with me to Tel Aviv?”  Then she stopped.  Self, are you forgetting that you promised hubby, you crossed your heart and said you hoped to die, but you would only leave the country one more time this year, and that wouldn’t be until a long time from now, possibly just before Christmas?  Since when have you turned into such a dissembler ??!!

And by the way, what makes you think niece G would enjoy going to Tel Aviv with you ???  As opposed to someone her own age, with loads more energy?

After self arrived home, she blithely informed hubby (She was so blithe, when only a short while earlier, anyone looking at her would have thought she was in the depths of despair) that he was “lucky” he hadn’t accompanied her to see the movie:  it was “so depressing,” Javier Bardem’s character had cancer, etc etc etc.

Which brings self once again to the topic of Javier Bardem’s appeal:  In “The Sea Inside,” he played a man who was completely paralyzed, but whose inner life was absolutely rich and compelling.  This was a movie that really mined, to the fullest extent possible, the contrast between Bardem’s hunky inert body and the true hunkiness of his inner spirit, and, and —

The phone rings and —  my Lord!  It is son!  It’s been so long, self almost forgot what his voice sounded like!

Her first question:  When is Amanda’s birthday?

March 26, he says.  Great!  Thankfully, it is ahead and not before, and self already knows just what to get Amanda:  In fact, she saw it just yesterday afternoon, in the Emily Joubert store in Woodside.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reuven Rubin’s “The Pinwheel Vendor”

Hubby is switching back and forth between ESPN and a station showing execrable “Troy.”  It is amazing how many good actors there were in this movie  —   Brad Pitt; Eric Bana; Diane Kruger; Orlando Bloom; Saffron Burrows; the-man-who-plays-the-evil-Director-of-Spy-Operations in the Bourne movies  —   and how lacking in spirit it is.  Compared to “Gladiator” or even “300,” this movie is so, so  —   limp.

But, once again, self has succumbed to a digression.  What she really wants to post about is the aforementioned painter, Reuven Rubin, whose house (converted into a museum), self visited last year in Tel Aviv.

When self left Tel Aviv, she bitterly regretted not having bought a book called Reuven Rubin:  Dreamland, in the gift shop of the Rubin Museum.  At the time, she thought it was too expensive.  But later, when Dearest Mum went back to Tel Aviv to be with Ying, self asked Dearest Mum if she could go to the Museum and get the book (How very sneaky of you, self!  You of course figured that Dearest Mum had more money than you!)  And, in all fairness, though those days after Ying’s passing were very very hard, Dearest Mum did find her way to Bialik Street, she did get to the Rubin Museum, and she did buy self this book.  Which self is looking at this very evening.

For weeks and weeks leading up to September 11, self has been thinking of Ying and Tel Aviv —  yes, even when she is being at her silliest.  How self hates to give in to even the slightest hint of maudlin emotion!  So she only wrote one post about the day, which was also Ying’s birthday and was also the day she passed away, last year.

But tonight, a week after that awful anniversary, self feels calm.  And so she turns to the Rubin book, which is so beautiful.  Each color plate has an accompanying analysis.  Here’s the one for a painting called “The Pinwheel Vendor,” painted in 1923:

An Arab of Sudanese descent sits facing the sea while a Jewish pioneer stands beside him.  The Sudanese man’s pose, his elevated chin and the fixed gaze focused on a faraway point on the horizon create the sense of a character operating within the dimensions of “inexhaustible time”  —  time which is not measured in the units of “here and now” but by means of an hourglass in which the sand grains do not run out.  The Sudanese man has so much time that he does not even bother to blow at his pinwheels.  Sooner or later, the wind will come.  If not sooner, then later.  And if not later, then after later.  The pioneer at his side stands barefoot like the natives and carries a hoe —  a symbol of Zionist activism  —  on his shoulder, his back turned to the sea.  The Sudanese man looks as if he could keep crouching on his heels for a long time.  He is in no hurry, and patience is the trait ensuring his survival.  He operates in another temporal sphere.  By contrast, the “New Jew” —  bearded and wearing a European hat  —  is full of movement and impetuosity.  He has no time, and must begin his task.

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