I don’t make a lot of phone calls home. Skype’s free, but inconsistent w/ quality, and having to be tethered to the PC really takes the spontaneity out it. Skype calls need to be planned, and if you or the other party doesn’t make the effort, they just don’t happen.
But I called my brother on Thursday because I needed something from him. A client of mine has a system that forwards calls from an extension on their Boston phone number to my cell phone in Israel. But it wasn’t working right, so I had asked the client to make an adjustment. He did, and this is what I needed my brother to help me test.
Anyway, I reached him, and he helped me, but he didn’t have much time to talk. He had moved into his new house the day before, and you know, there was *a lot* of stuff to do.
I felt very excited for him, but understood that he didn’t have a lot of time to talk. I wanted to keep him on longer and have him tell me *everything*, but I felt like I kind of didn’t have that right. We stay in touch, but neither one of works that hard at it. I should really only speak for myself.
After the call, I thought – should I have been angry? (Such an important day in your life, and you didn’t even call to let me know?) Well, no – because speaking for myself, there is more I could do to be better in touch.
Then, I got a little hard on myself: this was a monumental event in his life, and I almost missed it. I reached him on the tail end of it, almost by accident. I mean, I can’t live without seeing the series finale of LOST, but apparently I can live without talking to my brother, his wife or my niece for a month at a time.
Don’t hate on myself. I have control over how much I call. And if I want to feel I am more a part of my brother’s life, then I have to, you know, *be* more of a part of my brother’s life.
Well, this was just the treatiest of treats! My sister-in-law Jill (her sister is married to my brother) is in Israel the next two weeks. Her Israeli boyfriend’s brother is getting married, and they are here for that.
We had a late dinner at a cafe I like near where she is staying.
OMG, you guys, I can’t tell you how awesome it was to see and spend some time w/her. Other than my cousins Jennifer and Susan and my Aunt Bobbi & Uncle Jerry – none of my family has ever been to Israel, like ever. My Dad’s side isn’t Jewish, and my Mom’s side is suuuuuuper assimilated.
We’ve been in Philadelphia for five or maybe even six generations (like since the 19th century, we are talkin). We identify as Jewish, practice Reform, and everyone in my generation was Bar/Bat Mitzvah’d. But think about it: we lost no one in the Holocaust, and have been in Philadelphia longer than the Phillies. We are totes American.
But now that I’m here, I’m like, Come ON !!! But it ain’t happenin. My brother’s got a young family, my mom says she can’t afford it, my Dad’s not a traveller. So, anyway, my sister-in-law came first, and it was just so awesome to see her. We caught up on everything, and she is just cute as a button (see above).
Plus, I got to totally show off about how practically nothing much Hebrew I know!
Then, there’s LOST. If you’re a fan, you know what I’m talkin bout. If you’re not, well then I’m not gonna try an esplain. All you really need to know for this post is that I didn’t want to wait the day or two for it to appear on TV Shack. I needed it sooner. So, I broke out the Big Guns, the Slingbox.
This is an amazing technology my friend hooked me up with. Basically my computer is hooked up to a separate Time Warner cablebox in New York City he has set up just for his friends living abroad. When I connect, I can literally control an actual Time Warner cable box (with TiVO !) and watch LIVE TV as if I were in the United States.
Most of the time I don’t bother with it. I can get what I need with less fuss using TV Shack. But, you know, LOST is different. So, I TiVO’d the 2-hour final season premiere and delighted in some kick-ass, bionic storytelling.
And because there’s no remote control from my lounge chair, I watched the commercials – in English (of course). And the local news promos. OMG – there’s Liz Cho! And (cutie-patootie) Lee Goldberg! I got to watch them warn me like 20 time that a snowstorm was going to ‘foil my morning commute.’ Plus, the promos for ABC’s other network shows that were coming back from winter hiatuses – Flash Forward, V, and the like.
Here’s the thing, why this was significant. In some ways, I am kept very up-to-date on what’s going on, what’s hot, in America. NYTimes.com gives me my news. Perez, my gossip. Mashable, my tech & social media news. And I can watch new episodes of LOST, Project Runway, glee, 24 and other series. But I watch them without commercials. And it turns out – I miss Liz Cho and my rightful husband Lee Goldberg! Seeing my local news team talk about the local stories as if I were still a New Yorker…and watching advertisements in English (instead of rapid-fire, smarmy, salespitchy Hebrew ads, like I hear sometimes on the radio), and seeing the promos for those shows, as if I were still in the U.S. – wowza!, I really saw home in a different way, through this media slice I’ve been missin.
Conversely, you know – it made me realize how much Israeli media I don’t experience over here. It’s embarrasing, but if you ask me about domestic Israeli politics, I really don’t know how to answer. I still read the New York Times; I only know of Israeli news when a headline gets big enough so that that the Times is reporting it. And I don’t have a TV here. Cable is expensive, and why pay for it, when I watch so little TV to begin with, and I can use my much cheaper Internet to get everything I might need? But as a result, I watch no local Israeli TV news (which could really help with my Hebrew language skills) or Israeli pop culture and TV series. It’s kind of really keeping me apart from my new culture, you know?
All that, I got from viewin’ my LOST on the ‘Sling, huh?
I realized this week I am a little bit depressed. Nothing clinical – I can still get out of bed, and all. I wonder what brought it on though – was it that Cellcom rep who called me this week and offered me a better plan? It really was a better plan, so I took it – but she did tell me it was for 18-months and I’d be penalized for opting out early. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m happy with Cellcom, so I had no problem with that restriction.
….or did I?
This could have something to do with turning 40 recently, also.
Look, here’s the thing: I feel my career ran its course back in New York. I don’t want to return to the field of public relations. If I did plop back down in NYC – what would I do ??? While I want to choke my fucking boss who I can’t stand am ready to move on from my primary job, I am quite excited about the direction of these new developments – doing social media consulting for ROASTe and hopefully soon also for Seital. And, when I get enough of this new work to free myself from the hell that is my main job, I’ll have more time to work on my memoir about moving to Israel. Plus, the weather is great here, I like living among so many Jews, and I feel a strong, Zionist connection to Israel.
But for sure, the novelty of being here has worn off. Things that were at first so exciting and fun – Riding my bike around town like a 12-year-old, which I haven’t done since 1984, Whee! – are now completely whatevs. All the other things, too – now that they’re not new, but they just are, I’ve realized that emotionally, I feel right where I was back in the fall of 2008 before I left New York: wanting a husband and to start a family…wanting to be in a higher income bracket that would finally allow me to travel, live in a nicer home, dine out and actually, you know, buy things when I’m out and about (I think they call it shopping?)….just a general feeling of not being satisfied anymore with my simple life of work, gym, AA, net surfage, a diet of mostly frozen food (with assorted junk binges), etc.
I did move to Israel very quickly and with a certain degree of spontaneity, but it never felt blind. I thought about it a great deal, and it felt very organic. I had ‘done’ New York after 17 years, and with my job in jeopardy, I felt a window closing for me there….and one opening for me here with new opportunities and choices.
In AA, there is an expression of ‘taking a geographical cure’ as a method to control your drinking. You know, if I just move someplace else, things will be different and my drinking won’t be a problem anymore. The problem isn’t with me….it’s with New York. We call the shorthand for this: doing a geographic. I certainly never felt as though this is what I was doing with my move to Israel. But hell – now that I’m at where I am emotionally, it makes me think:
Was this move all about doing one big geographic?
There is no escape from yourself, though. Wherever you go….there you are.
I miss my family, but that is not the kicker. I speak to them (in Philadelphia) about as much as I did when I was living in New York. Don’t take this personally, Mom, but What I really miss is being around my deep bench of sober, gay AA friends in New York. I see and interact with them all on Facebook and many of them on Twitter, and thank God for it. It is no small thing at all; you know who you are: we comment on each other’s photos and statuses daily and 8,000 miles and a whole bunch of bits & bytes away, you are still my support system, and I love you. And I have a real & true & loving support system here, too, I do: Anna, Leah, Jeremy, Danny, Nir, Liron, Abi, Lawrence, Ronnie, Junie. I’m grateful you are all in my life. There were just more of you in NYC, that’s all.
כל יום ביומו.
“One day at a time.” That’s what the above phrase says. I have it tattooed on my arm. So, there really is no need to figure out “where I am going to be for the rest of my life.” But if I think of how freakishly cold Israeli apartments are in the winter, and their small sinks and mineral-heavy water….or everyone and their mother parking on the sidewalks, or having to seriously improve my Hebrew because this Hebrish crap just ain’t cutting it, or buildings here that just look so Third World that they appear as though they might crumble any second (and many more things native to Israel), I can easily answer myself with – Uh-uh. No way. This isn’t forever. I miss First World development & feel…places that are big & clean & spread out, that just look as though they belong in the 21st century and not from 1930 or 1860. I may not enjoy many things about my New York City neighbors who aren’t just like me, but maybe that’s something I need to work on, you know?
As for my new career as a social media consultant, there is something to be said for the fact that Israel is a very small pond (7.1 million people, less than all of New York City), and it’s a very good & safe environment for succeeding and rising to the top of your field if you are good at what you do and work hard (which I am, and I do). Not that I couldn’t make it in New York, too (isn’t that how the song goes?), but as a person who’s always been a Late Bloomer, maybe I could really benefit from doing this work from over here. Plus, the economic recovery in the U.S. continues to be fitful, and I know plenty of people out of work; do I really want to return NOW and jump back into that (economically) depressed environment? That’s another argument for remaining here, at least for the next few years.
My friend Junie said of course I’m depressed; it’s because I’m working too hard. After she said this, she went for coffee with some more of my friends, while the other people we were hanging with went to a street fair on Rothschild Street. I went home to go to work for a few hours, even though Friday is the weekend here and no one works in the afternoon. I proved her point immediately! It’s true. I may go out to a bar or club once a week, and I typically meet my friends Anna and Leah for coffee once a week, but other than that – it’s ROASTe work, memoir writing, job search efforts, errands and cleaning in the mornings, then my main job from 2-9pm, then the gym, then unwinding for a few hours online with Facebook, Mashable, Perez, Atraf, TV Shack and NYTimes.com, then sleep. Even my main break from work is getting boring – taking Pete to the dog park. Good for him, and I am making some regular friends from going there, but it ain’t enough.
No tidy summation from me at the end of this post. Just feel like I’m done musing for now. We’ll see how I feel when I read it over after hitting ‘publish.’
Maybe I’ll move to San Francisco…
I swear to God, what song do you think came on my iPod immediately after hitting “publish”? Leaving New York from REM’s album Around the Sun. What does that even mean, God?
Filed under: Amerijones, Cultural Differences, Published Columns | Tags: Christmas, gifts, Hanukkah
New column is up now at iGoogledIsrael. Imagine a world where Christmas gets the token nod instead of Hanukkah. Plus: how to still get good presents from family in the U.S. when you’re living in Israel.
Filed under: Amerijones, Exploits, Feelings, Identity, Struggles | Tags: family, gay, men, nightlife, Thanksgiving
I have the greatest family ever. Seeing so little of them is definitely my least favorite part about living here. But video Skype chats and Facebook photo comments are wonderful things, and they’ve been enough for me to get by. It’s stuff I’ve written about here & here. As far as celebrating holidays go, I would like to be with my family for these, but I can’t be, and that’s mostly been OK.
Thanksgiving is different.
For the past five years my cousin Jennifer has been holding it in her huge, beautiful 19th century home in suburban North Jersey. I love it because it’s the one holiday where my whole fam schleps up from Philly, instead of me having to go down there. To get to Jennifer’s, I only had to hop on a 20 minute bus ride from the Port Authority, drink deeply from all that family goodness, then say sayanora and head back to NYC to play with my friends for the long weekend intead of being trapped in surburan Philly hell.
It’s more than that, though. For starters, Thanksgiving at Jen & Harry’s is called TURKEYPALOOZA. Each year, they send out a new goofball invitation heradling the event. Here’s this year’s:
Jennifer’s husband Harry is an amazing chef and we eat like The Biggest Loser contestants kings. You can’t tell by my darling, slim figure, but I have one hell of an appetite. Jen indulges my goober sense of humor by helping me art-direct increasingly elaborate staged pics of me hoarding and binging on desserts. Some of our past work includes:
Jen & Harry plan out a new craft for us to complete each year. In the past, we’ve painted our own ceramic dessert plates (not unveiled until the following year!), designed our own napkin holders, and decorated our own turkey feathers, which were assembled to create a picture of the full bird:
It’s gotten so we don’t even refer to it as Turkeypalooza anymore. Not unlike a big-budget Hollywood franchise sequel, we refer to them now as T3, T4, T5, etc. So this year I missed out on T6. *sad face* But I was going to plan something really special to connect with them all. I bought my cousin a cheap webcam onamazon.com, set up a gmail account for her and used it to set up a Skype account for her. While I have Skyped my mom, bro/sis’n’law/niece, and dad individually before, I had never Skyped the whole fam in one place at one time. I thought it would be totes awesome to have peeps just rotate in and for me to speak with the whole mishpacha this way.
Only, I think what happened was I didn’t set it up far enough in advance. My cuz did manage to log into her Skype account, and the last message I got from her the day before Thanksgiving said she was exhausted from all the planning but she wold plan a test Skype with me sometime before everyone arrived. Then…I waited by the computer all evening, but never connected with her. I used Skype’s SMS feature to send txt messages to her cell, my mom’s cell and bro’s cell. Still nothing. 😦 [I found out later that peeps who get txts from you via Skype can’t respond to them. I thought everyone was ignoring me, but they probably just had no way of responding.]
I wasn’t sure what to do. I had plans to attend a screening of a lesbian romantic comedy called “I Can’t Think Straight” as part of TLV Fest‘s “Alternative Movie Nights” monthly film series, AND I was supposed to stop by Max Brenner’s chocolate restaurant to celebrate my friend Jeff’s birthday. I’d gladly miss both those events if it meant being face-to-face with my fam (via video Skype). But no one was responding, and I didn’t want to sit at home and not connect with them and also miss both my plans. So I figured I would go and could always try them at my 1:00 a.m. (their 6pm), after everyone was in their trypophan comas. I was running late to make the screening, so I painted on my vintage GAP jeans (the ones that make my ass look great), walked the dog, hopped on my bike and was off. See, since I was late and this was a film fest screening, there would likely be an introductory speech before the film screened. If I was going to inch my way through the crowd in a front row seat (excuse me…’scuse me, sir…pardon me…sorry, thank you…) and draw a lot of attention to myself, might as well make sure my ass looked good.
So I got to the cinematheque, which is sort of Tel Aviv’s arthouse multiplex…and it was dead. The guard told me nothing was going on, but I insisted the screening was going on. He let me in, and I went upstairs and into an in-progress screening of….Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works.” 😦 Sure enough, I checked the Cinematheque guide, and the screening was LAST NIGHT.
How I got that wrong, I’m not sure. But, oh well. I txt’d my friend Ronnie, and asked him if they were still at Max Brenner’s. He txt’d me back Dude, that was last night.
Eff, man !!! There actually was a Plan C. My friend Danny had introduced me to this weekly gay party in 2012 Bar called “Beef,” and I really liked it. It’s a leather party. Hot guys, amazing music. And it’s on Thursdays, so I could always go there. And had I gone straight there, I probably would’ve been fine. But, you know – it was a big double-whammy I just had. Not connecting with my whole fam at T6 like I had been expecting to was a big disappointment. But I thought I had plans (natch, double-plans), and so I wasn’t gutted about the whole thing. But when I took the back-to-back hits of finding out both the screening and birthday parties were last night and I had missed them both, it was like *WHOMP !*, and I was suddenly feeling sad & lonely. Sad & lonely is not a good mindset for me to walk into a bar with. So, thankfully I remembered to do the next right thing, and I called my friend Anna. Voicemail. Dang, but I left one. Then, I did the nexter, righter thing and called my sponsor. He had gone to bed early (it was 11:00 p.m. by this point), but picked up. I brought him up to speed. It was a short phone call, but it was all I needed; just not to be alone with the feelings and to tell another person how I was feeling really stabilized me. I told him what I planned to do next, and he told me to have a great time. And so I hopped on the bike and was off! (It was a good week for music, what with new albums dropping from Glambert, Gaga, SuBo and RiRi, so I was jammin on the bike ride over.)
I got there early, and the place was still empty. But I saw my friend Russell there, so I went to his booth and started talking with him and his husband Avi. Actually I didn’t really know Russell yet. We were FB friends and had been introduced, but never really hung yet. Russell’s kinda famous in the gay community in Tel Aviv, I think. I didn’t discuss this with him yet, but his lawsuit to have his marriage (to a same sex partner) recognized in Israel went all the way to the Supreme Court in Israel and was successful. Anyway, we got a chance to talk, and I really like him.
So, it’s only recently that I’ve really started going out in Tel Aviv. My first six months, I was doing full-time ulpan (intensive language school) in the mornings, then working afternoons-thru-evening, then doing Hebrew homework at night. Throw in blogging and my articles for iGoogledIsrael, and there just wasn’t much time for it. But I’m taking a break from my Hebrew education, and – although my mornings are still packed with creative writing and working on a memoir of how I made Aliyah in a span of 5 minutes – there is some time to sleep in now, if I want to go out. And I’m starting to meet some people, and see them out and about and get introduced to more people, and then introduced to more people through them, and…
So, anyway, the place starts to fill up, and I’m having a good time, and then suddenly my BlackBerry vibrates. OMG, it was my cousin Pamela returning my instant message !!! When I was trying every way I could think of to connect with the fam, I remembered she was a BBerry Girl, and I tried I.M.’ng her, but she didn’t respond. Until now, that is! So, suddenly we’re IM’ng and I come alive. I mean, my heart is just filled with love and meaning.
It may not have been the connection I was expecting – with the whole family in full-on video and audio – and instead it was typing with thumbs on an itty-bitty keyboard to one cousin while being surrounded with men in leather, but it was enough.
More than enough, actually. It made my whole night. (Thank you, Pammie !!!) And so, my cousin sends me through the I.M. first a pic of my first-cousin-once-removed Dayton. And then, she sends me my little niece Alexa; both from the dinner table. And so, I snap a pic of my surroundings to send back. but – even though the flash goes off and sort of embarasses me – it’s too dark for it to come out very good. So, I have to go for this: there are three bartenders in the main room. An ugly one, a really cute one, and an *cue angelic music* truly holy Adonnis type one (in the pic above that opens the post). I tell a friend my plan and get the boost of encouragement I needed. I go up and explain to him that I’m I.M.’ng with my cuz from the Thanksgiving dinner table and she’s just sent me two pics of my little nieces, and I just have to reply with a pic of my surrounding – namely, hot men in leather, and it’s gotta be him and well, would he pose for me? Luckily, he’s not the shy type, and he gives me a good one, and I snap it. I tell you, it was more embarassing having the flash go off and looking like a goober cheeseball tourist in front of everyone else doing what they wish they had the balls to do photographing the hot bartender. But it was worth it. After this, I was feeling some serious mojo kick in, and I later went back up to the bartender and showed him the I.M. thread, and he told me to friend request him on Facebook.
Seriously – why shouldn’t I be with a guy this hot ??? So, after this my whole night just kicks into overdrive. I’m so high from the family connection that my vibes make me really attractive to everyone in the bar, and I’m meeting guys left and right. I ask Pam what we should do – is a Skype still possible at this point? She’s like Yeah, but hurry. Jen wants to put the kids to bed. But I’m about 15-20 minutes away from home by bike, and then I’d have to take the dog out, and then boot up the PC, and I couldn’t make a Skype happen before at least a half hour at the earliest. Plus, I kinda didn’t want to leave the bar. The night was in full swing, and I was lovin it. Pam didn’t twist my arm and said, Nah, let’s just bag it. Right answer, PammiePoo !!
I saw my friend Ron, and I talked to him a little bit in Hebrew first, and he paid me the hugest compliment. He said You know, some people might make fun of your [totally sucky] Hebrew, but let me tell you something: I think it’s a really brave thing you did, moving all the way here and starting a new life at your age, and so does everyone else. They won’t admit it, but everyone looks up to you for what you did, because it’s really important for Israel, and we appreciate what you’ve done. You’ll have a better life here, more opportunity than you would in America. I was not expecting this from him, and it made me feel terrific.
So, anyway, then I rode home, walked the dog…and surfed the ‘Net for two hours, b/c I was so wired up. I still wished I’d had a chance to see and talk with everyone in my amazing family, but it was amazing in its own right how my night went from sad & lonely to maybe my best night out in Tel Aviv yet.
Thanks to H.P., Shuki, Anna, Russell, Jacques & Shoham, שמאי, Eliad, Danny, & Pamela !!!
Well, one of the things I was most looking forward to on my trip back home was to spend time with her. On my first night back in my hometown, I fished my wish. My mom brought me over to my brother’s house to have dinner with him and my niece (my sister-in-law was traveling on business).
The pic above is of me presenting Alexa with my present for her – a handmade hand-puppet of a little girl. I hope she likes it.
We also got to have brunch a few days later. I guess if you have little kids, you will know that one of the things adults like to get toddlers to do it high-five you (and in the Obama age, to “pound” you). Everyone was pounding with her, and she was pounding us all back….’cept me. I don’t blame her; despite having bi-weekly video skype chats with her, I’m not around her, and she doesn’t really know me. It hurts a little, but it’s very logical.
But just when we were quitting the game, she gave me one – a pound !!! I asked her mom to snap this pic, I was so happy.
But the absolute best part of spending time with her was when her mom, dad and me took a 4-hour road trip to see my Dad. I got to spend four whole hours right next to her! 🙂 I totally broke out the finger puppets I’ve been using to put on little shows for her over Skype. It was like a live version of Sesame Street or The Muppet Show, with two little puppets having a conversation right in front of her…and then asking her a question, and having her answer the puppet (as if it were real); Hot damn, I was activating her imagination !!! My hope was that her young mind would somehow make the connection from the “live show” I put on in the car to the ones I did over Skype, and she’d get a lightbulb moment where she realized OMG, you’re the guy from the TV who talks to me !!!
That probably wasn’t realistic, but she’s very, very smart, and is learning new words at a breakneck clip. All the time, she was randomly pointing at stuff (correctly) and proclaiming “trees,” “trucks,” etc. Plus, I’d teach her a new one (“mountain”), and then she would use it correctly 5 minutes later (or even better – the next day!)
The Skype chats will continue now that I’m back in Israel, but I’ve definitely got work to do, in order to stay a fixture in her consciousness. I used to worry out it, but today I’m not so much. It’ll be alright, and all these posts about her will one day let her know how much I love her.
Here’s a cute timeline of me giving her her present:
And here’s one more with some WOW Factor: