Sentence of the Day: Ayelet Tsabari

Yes, self is still reading The Art of Leaving because, dammit, self is concerned about this woman narrator, who puts herself in the path of danger whenever she can, seems completely heedless of her physical safety, and loves so many people. Sometimes Tsabari leaves them, and sometimes they leave her, but she is never, ever less than FULLY ENGAGED. So, points to her. MAJOR POINTS.

And self is fascinated by her descriptions of Tel Aviv.

It’s like I’m always waiting for something to happen, ready for a fight, wanting to wage war with the day, the world, or a person; as though a part of me longs for the risk, that shard of glass in the sand that catches your eye, a promise, an assurance that I am alive.

— “Tough Chick,” Essay # 11 in The Art of Leaving

Essay # 3: The Art of Leaving, by Ayelet Tsabari

Yes, self did finally make it out of the thicket of Classic Fantasy and into a new book, a memoir in essays by Ayelet Tsabari. It’s not part of any book list: she just happened to hear a friend praise it to high heaven, so she added it to her reading list a couple of months ago. She was a little underwhelmed by the first essay (grief over losing a dad, when very young). Self wondered if this was going to be the anchor of the entire book. But there were flashes of Tel Aviv in there, and frankly self has always been fascinated by Tel Aviv, a city she’s been to only once, ages ago. Dearest Mum had a friend who was a pianist and he let us stay in his flat while dearest Ying was in the hospital there, dying of Stage IV leukemia.

The people self saw around her (on Ruppin Street) were the biggest Jews she had ever seen. Self says this facetiously. She has Jewish friends but they are not big. In Tel Aviv, not only were the people big, they were completely bronzed, like the models in ads for Italian fashion. And the beach was walkable, and it was white sand, and if she didn’t always pass the American Embassy looking like a fortress, with two implacable marines standing at attention outside, facing the sea, she would have thought she was on the Cote d’Azur.

Essay # 1 ended with a memory of the author being mean. Which raised self’s hopes, because that was a surprise, and that meant there would be other surprises in store.

Self liked Essay # 2, and now she is in Essay # 3, which is about the military service every Israeli citizen is required to perform, right after high school. She’s always been intensely curious about this experience. She forgot it was TWO YEARS. Wow, if someone had told self when she was growing up that she would have to lose two years of her youth to being at one with a rifle, she might have tried to run away or something.

Tsabari begins Essay # 3 when she’s served seven months. That means 17 more months of this routine:

  • We tumbled out of our beds at four o’clock every morning to days filled with repetitive drills and grueling duties: we scrubbed bathrooms, scoured the base’s grounds, washed mountains of dishes, and guarded the base at night. During the day, we ran.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Now Reading Memoir: The Art of Leaving

Self blasted through the post-Alexander Grin stories in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy and skipped the final story, by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Now she’s reading a memoir about growing up Yemeni in Tel Aviv (a city self visited years ago), The Art of Leaving. Someone whose reading taste is impeccable recommended this book to self.

  • On our west, down the eternally jammed Jabotinsky Road, is Tel Aviv, the big city with its narrow streets and white sand beaches and the promise of the world beyond its shores. Airplanes circle above us like hungry seagulls before landing, and sometimes warplanes zoom by on their way north of the border. The war is far away, but we can see it written on the grown-ups’ faces: the tension in their cheeks, the groove between the eyebrows. We can hear it in the music played on the radio, beautiful songs in minor keys about death and the land that fill us with sweet sadness.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Rainbow of Colors (At Least 4)

Thanks once again to Cee Neuner for the Fun Foto Challenge!

Last October, self was in the historic English town of Winchester, which was hosting a Poetry Festival. The next Winchester Poetry Festival will be October 2020.

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Winchester, England: City Map, October 2018

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Tel Aviv Artist Reuven Rubin

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A friend made this bag for self.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still More Structure: Seeing Carefully

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is STRUCTURE. All week, self has been finding inspiration for that theme, poking around her house in Redwood City.

The first two pics are from self’s garden. The third is a postcard featuring a painting by Reuven Rubin, whose work she discovered in Tel Aviv, 2008. She flew to Tel Aviv to visit Dear Departed Ying, her sister-in-law and loyal friend. Ying passed away a few months later. On her last day in Tel Aviv, she met Yosef Halper at his bookstore in the Novo Tzedek district. She’s always wanted to go back. Maybe next year.

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This leaf of a giant algave plant she bought just three years ago

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Pot of Lime Thyme

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She just found this postcard, inserted in a magazine she’d saved — from 2011. The painting is by Reuven Rubin.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Today, Pondering Joan Didion

Mulling over a list of attitudes that can be considered “magical thinking.”

Remember the book that Joan Didion wrote, several years back, called The Year of Magical Thinking? Ying was reading it in the apartment in Tel Aviv when self visited her, just a few months before she succumbed, at 37, to leukemia. Ying told self it was a very good book.

Honestly, self does not know how Ying managed to read a book like that when she herself was struggling for her life. But that’s how Ying was. She was compassionate and loving, but also remarkably clear-eyed and unsentimental. She was brave. The last thing Ying told self, shortly before she left Tel Aviv was, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

Today, self flipped open one of her journals and the first thing her eyes landed on was this list:

EXAMPLES OF MAGICAL THINKING:

  • My “stuff” will save me.
  • My writing will save me.
  • Being good will save me.
  • My degrees will save me.
  • My 260-thread-count bed linens will save me.
  • Other people will save me.

Denial is the most dangerous form of coping mechanism.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Hanoch Bartov: “A Familiar Face,” translated by Riva Rubin

Reading (in addition to the Daniel Mason novel The Piano Tuner) the anthology 50 Stories From Israel, edited by Zisi Stavi.

Self is very much taken by the tone of the story by Hanoch Bartov. Here’s how it begins:

  • A few days earlier, I had returned from landscapes and climates that were the opposite of this headlong pacing in the dazzle of a Tel Aviv summer. Perhaps that is why I did not remember that I had never been to Yarmous’ office, which is where I was going in connection with the arbitration — postponed until my return — concerning the spiritual and financial insult suffered by my friend, the writer. It was only when I reached the corner of Ibn Gabirol and the street I was walking towards with such dizzy energy that I realized that the number of the building — 29, 17, or 37 — had been wiped from my memory, and that I had left my diary in the car.

Love it, just love it.

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.

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