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.

Tomorrow, Sept. 11

While everyone else is commemmorating the World Trade Center (or should be), self is remembering the fact that tomorrow is Ying’s birthday.

It’s also the day she passed away, a year ago, in Tel Aviv.

My mother had stepped out of the room for a moment, my brother was Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to Mnemosyne, Self is Now a Kreative Blogger

Waaaah!  Self will do the Sally Field/ Halle Berry big crying scene!

She’s just Read the rest of this entry »

The Bookseller Tells His Story

Loyal blog readers know how 2008 brought self such waves of sorrow and joy, how self flew to Tel Aviv in the spring to be with Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying, how fraught the visit was.  Now, Ying is gone, but self will never forget Tel Aviv:  even now she feels a kinship to the city, to its booksellers and cab drivers and ordinary people, to the bus drivers who let her ride free (Self is astonished that such things still do happen in the world), to the young girls who took self by the hand when she was lost and directed her hither and thither.  That, at least, was one good thing to come out of 2008.

On self’s last day in the city, wandering down Allenby, self encountered a bookstore owner named Joe H.  Here’s a droll story he sent her just a few days ago:


What does a respectable purveyor of antiquarian tomes  do with pornographic dvds that find their way into his store? Well, if you are a nice guy who likes helping others, as well as taking stupid risks, you offer them to a devout Muslim acquaintance and watch what happens!

I would have kept the porn for myself, but as it happens they weren’t to my exacting standards in erotica. I also don’t like catering to perverts in my bespoke establishment.

It happened like this, Upon pondering what to do with the dvds, in walks Aziz, a devout Muslim who works downstairs at a textile importing firm. I offered him the dvds as a gift, phrasing it like this, “Would you or perhaps Jamal,  want these discs as a gift?”.

He gave me an incredulous look and asked why I was giving them away. I said that I don’t like selling such things in my store….but I began to sense  that he was struggling over whether to accept them, so I  said flippantly, “give them to Jamal,” (the guy he works with)

Now let me mention here that Jamal and Aziz are related somehow and they live in a village some distance from the city. I assume that the village is quite traditional, with women in headgear and such; but that didn’t deter me from my generous offer. I was on automatic pilot. I was determined that he take them….Anyway,  I recalled that they  always leer and jeer at the women walking by, (especially Jamal), so I figured what the heck? They’ll enjoy them!

Jamal is less traditional than Aziz. He  is also a very big and strong dude, but more outgoing and friendly. (He once put me in a bear hug and lifted my 93 kilos like nothing.)

Anyway, Aziz took the movies and said “I will give them to Jamal.”

An hour went by, and I practically forgot about the whole thing, when Aziz stormed into the shop with fire in his eyes. “uh-oh” I said to myself.

“Tell me the truth Joe, and don’t lie….did you tell me to give those dirty movies to Jamal, yes or no?”

I stammered something about telling him to “take the dvds, and if not, give them to Jamal…I think”.

-Don’t lie to me Joe, you told me, “Give these to Jamal, yes or no?”

-Ok, Aziz, that is possible, it could be that I said, “give these to Jamal, that is entirely possible, but I’m not sure, my intention was to just get rid of them, and I told myself, the first FRIEND who walks in here, I will offer them to him…walla,  then you walked in! But then I remembered that you are a devout Muslim, so it entirely possible that I said on second thought, “give these to Jamal”, not really intending to give them to either YOU OR Jamal, in that simply…. you were the first person to walk in here….if you know what I mean…no insult intended, of course”

-Ok, but remember what you said Joe, you said, “Give these to Jamal”.

-That is possible Aziz, but my memory is a little foggy , entirely possible though…. no insult intended Aziz, really, and please tell Jamal that”.

He stormed out, and I thought to myself, Sh#*t, I’m f#*ked!

Jamal soon strode in, mad.

-Did I ever ask you to give me pornography? Did I ever “place an order for pornography from you”??

-No Jamal, of course not, like I told Aziz, or better, what I THINK I told Aziz was, “take these dvds and/or give them to Jamal….No insults intended, just friendship…I wasn’t thinking of course”

I went through the whole thing again with Jamal, exasperated at this complete cultural misunderstanding….

when suddenly Jamal smiled and kissed me on both cheeks with a bone-crushing hug, (The kiss of death??? By this time I was sweating bullets and sh#*tting bricks. Jamal had once decked a policeman over a petty misunderstanding… and did time for it…the guy fears no one), and he said,

“I believe you Joe”.

_Jeez, thank you jamal, you had me there for a second!

Two days later I bumped into Jamal. He seemed to be in a good mood, so I ventured to ask what the whole fuss was about over the dvds. He told me that he just got married to Aziz’s sister, and that Aziz was gravely insulted that he was ordering porno movies from me….

Jamal continued to say that they had a fierce argument, and that  it wasn’t any of Aziz’s goddamn business even if he DID order the porn from me, because his sister was now his wife, and that a man is the king of his own castle and he would watch a thousand porno flics if he wanted.

He then winked at me and said he thoroughly enjoyed the films, and that if I ever got any more, to call him straight away…but not to tell Aziz.

The End

Self thinks the bookseller ought to start writing books . . .

Reuven Rubin and Why Self Writes This Blog

A Fed-Ex package came for self a few days ago, and when she opened it, it turned out to be a book of the art of Read the rest of this entry »

The Phone Rings Again

It’s over, dear blog readers.

Ying passed away an hour ago. At first self thought: Oh God, she never made it to her birthday. Stupid thought.

But suddenly self realizes: It’s morning on the 11th in Tel Aviv.

And Then the Phone Rings

And self leaps up, and there’s a voice saying over and over: “Hello? Hello?”

And self, too, is saying, “Hello? Hello?”

And then somehow self is on the phone to Tel Aviv, but there’s a clicking that says someone is trying to get through, and then self finds herself on the phone to Tel Aviv and to Manila simultaneously. And Dearest Mum is asking, “Can you come?” And self thinks: Oh no, I have agreed to teach four classes this semester. Because Dear Hubby said he would be out of a job soon.

And self asks if someone can put the phone up next to Ying’s ear, because, amazingly, self can hear her talking. Ying is talking. Someone says, “Ying, it’s ______” and she says self’s name, but that’s all.

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