It was my 2nd blog, after briefly doing an environmental blog on a stinky Yahoo 360 platform that nobody could see unless they joined, and I started it within a day or two of arriving in Israel. There were so many new & crazy experiences being thrown at me, I’m so glad I had the dedication to chronicle them here.
G-Fish helped me tell my stories to all my family & friends back home. And now, I’m glad it will live in cyberspace indefinitely for those future queens googling “gay” AND “israel” AND “blog” etc. to find out what life might be like for them here, because they are considering making Aliyah. Seriously, it is very gratifying to get random comments from gay Jews on this blog – men & women I don’t know, but who are searching for specialized information about gay life in Israel. It’s a huge step what I did (making Aliyah), and I love that I’ve left a trail for men & women excited about taking the same step, and that I continue to help them through my stories’ echoes.
I also had to get a farewell post up, so that the first thing people see wouldn’t be Helen Thomas’ broom hilda mug on my homepage for all eternity. I was rightly incensed shen she made her anti-Semitic comments last spring, and I’m glad I posted my reaction to them. But, G-Fish was never an issues-oriented blog. It was always just about my new life, adjusting as an Oleh Chadash in Israel. Helen was not respresentative of what G-Fish was all about, at all. Deleting her post was one option, making a farewell post was another.
There are so many stories to tell from my experiences between last May and now – everything from the huge steps I’m taking professionally here, to continued good times w/ friends here to Petey stories and random small stuff. But, frankly – who has time for all that? So, I’m just gonna post some pics & vids instead.
If you’re LGBT and considering making Aliyah to Israel, just know that my experience so far has been great. I’ve been here a year and a half and am succeeding in starting my own business, have moved into my own great apartment in Tel Aviv, and have had my cute dog Petey for almost a year now. Still no boyfriend (or really, very much dating or sex, even) – but if you think you could change that, please leave your information in the comments, lol. Love ya! -S
Here is the last year and a half (since I made Aliyah) encapsulated in 3 pictures:
Check out my website scottpiro.com, which I expect to have up before the end of the year. It will be mostly a professional site, showcasing my work in PR, social media strategy & implementation and copywriting. But I’ll also have a smaller personal section on there, too.
Shalom, Bitches !! !! !!
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.
Filed under: Feelings, Hey!, Identity, Struggles | Tags: blockade, Flotilla, Sandra Bernhard
A lot can change in 24 hours. Sunday night I got to watch Rihanna perform in Jafo’s Bloomfield Stadium, and she was magnificent. The concert was part of a cool initiative called the Orange RockCorps. To score a ticket you had to do four hours of community service or know my friend Beth and get given a ticket for doing nothing. This was RiRi’s first time in Israel.
I had a stupendous time at the show. I almost didn’t make it! Beth told me RiRi was performing at Ramat Gan Stadium. I set out on my bike with plenty of time – dressed in “26-year-old drag.” My friend Ashley told me that the RockCorps tickets were only for kids ages 16-26. With bad lighting, sleep in your eyes and visual impairment, I can maybe appear 32-years-old; 26-y-o would be really pushing it (#understatement). But I wore a baseball cap and little O.P. corduroy shorts and gave myself a fresh, clean shave.
Google Maps on my BlackBerry got me there easily enough, and I realized the stadium (actually in Bnei Brak) was across from two skyscrapers where I had business meetings in the last few weeks. I was feeling that “more has been revealed” satisfying feeling that (unknowingly at the time) those meetings had helped familiarize me with this location to help me find the concert.
Except, major #Fail, b/c RiRi was not performing there at all. She was performing at Bloomfield Stadium in Yafo, which is basically the southern tip of Tel Aviv. Bnei Brak was like two towns over, north of Tel Aviv.
Fortunately, this whole country is the size of a peanut, and RiRi is Diva enough to never start the show on time, and I made it to the correct stadium about :10 minutes before she went on.
I passed for 26-years-old or, they just weren’t checking! I had a ticket to stand on the floor, which was fine b/c it was very close up. Even arriving as close to showtime as I did, I still was maybe 15 feet away from her when she came stage right. It was like I was babysitting or 15,000 teenagers, but it was fine.
Don’t you love it, when you remember to bring your camera and when you whip it out to take your first shot, you’re greeted with this message on the display: “CHANGE THE BATTERY PACK.” #Fail !!! Why doesn’t the camera have a gauge that shows you battery strength as you go along, but instead tells you nothing before – “Hey, doufus – I’m done. Change me.” #Fail !!! BlackBerry pics had to suffice, mainly of the video monitor, b/c cam was not high quality enough to get good shots of RiRi directly, close as I was.
Great show. Of course, I’m gonna find all the ways she was derivative of Madonna, but she really turned it out and rocked hard. It was really fun. Since I’m building my own business, I work *A LOT*, and it’s a real challenge to make myself get out for social activities. Seeing a big act like RiRi feels tangible to me, like I can point to it and feel – See, I do stuff.
Next day, late morning I see one of the new friends I’ve made from this crowd that’s really active on Twitter, Benji, tweet something like – “So sad, can’t stop watching the news.” Part of me thinks Uh-oh, what? , but I’m swamped as usual w/ work, and I don’t pay full attention. I can’t remember how long, but later that day the twitter chatter becomes loud enough that I realize something big has happened.
I’m trying to remember now what the first coverage I read was like – was it the US and global press accusing Israel of a “massacre of peace activists” or was it links from the people I follow on Twitter, who told a different story – that the IDF soldiers were “brutally ambushed by the terrorists at sea“?
The Ynet article really made me feel better – See, we’re not barbarians…we boarded the boat and *they* attacked *us* !! In an interesting twist, right afrter reading that article, the next tweet I see in Tweetdeck is from comedian/actress/author/personality/singer Sandra Bernhard – who I have adored ever since the mid 80’s, when she seemingly appeared on Late Night w/ David Letterman every few weeks. I remember thinking – Who *IS* this chick !?! I don’t know if Sandra was out then (I certainly wasn’t), but I was captivated by the way she clearly marched to her own drummer and seemed so much more authentic and original than the celebrities I was accustomed to seeing.
Anyway, so I’ve been a fan of hers for 25 years, and I read her tweet saying:
Not mean spiritied. Just a question – a *good* question. But in this environment – when, AGAIN it seems the world is unifiyingly holding Israel to an unfair security & self-defense double-standard…and yes, I was probably taking on some of these critical attacks on Israel personally…because Sandra is influential (and Jewish) and many people pay attention to what she has to say, I didn’t want her question to go unanswered or manipulated for another person’s purposes or change the opinion of someone still making up his/her mind up about what was still breaking news.
So, I answered her over Twitter:
And I included a hyperlink to the Ynet story I had read. Then, I continued working. I was still swamped, and flotilla or notilla, that hadn’t changed. When I checked Tweetdeck a little later, I saw that Sandra had answered me. While I had half-hoped she would, I certainly didn’t expect her to. Anyway, here is our conversation:
OK, so maybe it’s less of a conversation and really Sandra’s response to my tweet, and then my 3 replies to her, plus one re-tweet from my new friend @Jewlicious. (But if you remove the 140-character limitation, then – yeah, it’s her response, then mine, then me forwarding something.)
Anyway, I continued working, but of course that means checking both Facebook and Tweetdeck (and Atraf) every 5 seconds, and I came across a link to video posted by The Huffington Post, and it made Israel look just awful. A British Al-Jazeera reporter is giving a report from the deck of the raided flotilla boat. He mentions in his report that the flotilla was “carrying aid” when the “Israeli commandos descended upon it in International waters after surrounding it with ships from all sides” and mentions that on board the raided boat were “activists, parliamentarians, women, children and the elderly” and that “tens of people were injured, and there were still sounds of live fire despite white flag having been raised.”
I started feeling bad after watching this report. Not just – Oh, shit, this is *Bad* for Israel, but more like self-doubt, like – Oh, shit is this who we are? Are we barbarians? Am I in denial when I say the world is being unfair in its condemnation of us for what transpired? Are we really evil?
Another report I read on HuffPo had a pundit calling the incident “Israel’s Kent State” and a “massacre” and referred to those on the boat as “activists.” Head was starting to spin. Were they activists delivering aid, or terrorists attacking soldiers with metal rods? What was the truth ??
The HuffPo post was updated with video from the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) that showed the people attacking the soldiers when they first boarded the boat. This did a lot to reassure me – both that we had not perpetrated a massacre, and that more balanced coverage was making it’s way to American media, if not Europe.
Here is close-up of the same footage I found on the IDF’s YouTube channel:
I felt even more reassured when I read my friend David Hazony’s report. David is a writer and author on religion, Judaism, Israel, and the Middle East. From his piece I learned that the flotilla had written a press release in advance about the attack and were able to send it to news media around the world as soon as the incident occured. Premeditate much? David’s piece talked about the need to win the media war via press releases and Twitter, and I popped a PR boner. This is what I do, man !!! Maybe this is the reason I am here in Israel – I’m supposed to offer my PR and communications expertise (all in mother-tongue English) to the Israeli government and IDF and help us win the media war the next time.
I fired off a tweet to Sandra Bernhard, with a link to David’s piece. Then, I went to the gym to get rid of some of this anxiety and fat. But first, here are two exchanges with friends on Facebook. But are friends I love. One is Jewish, and she thanks me for “getting the truth out.” The other is not Jewish, but he lived in Israel before and loves Israel. But after the news coverage he saw, he had decided Israel and the IDF were in the wrong here, and he was condemning the IDF raid. Can you see why this was very confusing and heartbreaking for me?
I got my gym on. As I opened my locker to shower after, I saw that Sandra Bernhard had replied to me on Twitter! I was really happy about this. Because our conversation did not devolve into argument, but remained kind; other people could be following it over Twitter and having their thoughts on the incident broadened, and Sandra and I found some common ground in the end. Plus, I was able to get my starfuck on with a performer I have always enjoyed and admired.
Cool, right? Look, I didn’t know when I’d ever be talking to Sandra again, so I could not resist telling her about how I first became a fan. It’s like when I met Debra Winger while working on the red carpet of the Gotham Independent Film Awards and got to tell her the scene in ‘Terms of Endearment’ where she says goodbye to her kids is my favorite moment of cinema ever. I still didn’t get what Sandra meant about my response being disproportinate. But whatevs. This was still a cool thing on a lot of levels for me. Headed to a cafe to work for a few hours. Logged on and saw Sandra had responded!
Then, when I get home, I found out she had asked me what I do for a living here in Israel. Wow, I thought that was really nice.
I could have asked her what she meant by that. Israel is a democracy and all 7.1 million citizens have full rights and participate in government and society (not just the 5.6 million Jews), but it was almost 4am, and time for a few hours of sleep.
It’s a couple of days later now, and I was happy to see more examples of US media coverage that I thought was fair. Like, when Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Charlie Rose and defended Israel’s actions. And then, this wonderful opinion piece by Charles Krauthammer.
Almost finished, those of you who are still with me. Saw this last night. Superbly powerful parody/commentary of the Flotilla called “We Con the World” (like the 1985 USA for Africa single, “We Are the World”). I think it’s brilliant and the creative force behind it, Caroline Glick, is my new hero. Watch:
Alright, it’s Shabbat, my dog is dying to get outside, and I’ve been writing this post for more than four hours. Time to get cleaned up and head to Hilton Beach. I just knew I had to do a long post about my reaction to this international incident, though. Because I am an Israeli, but not a native one. I’m an American, too, and most of my friends live in America. America is more supportive of Israel than any other country, and American news media coverage of Israel is more balanced than most coverage in the world, which has a very anti-Israeli slant – maybe because the world views Israel as an illegitimate country who shouldn’t really be here at all. From my unique perspective as an Oleh Chadash (new immigrant) living in Israel for less than a year and a half, I am in between worlds, in a way. I live here. But I read American news via the New York Times, and links to US news sources sent around on Twitter and Facebook. I have friends in both countries. I dunno, it occurred to me that my reaction to this event was probably not the same as the average Israeli, and I wanted to document it (for me) and share it – in case there are other Olim who can relate to parts of it.
P.S. Here’s a good summary piece from NYT.
P.P.S. Footnote: that I have a friend in New York named Kevin, who works as a professional drag queen. His drag name?
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?
I usually don’t throw parties for myself, but you only turn 40 once each lifetime. So, this year I knew I must.
I went with my friend Phil last month to see this place my friends the Becker-Barkins recommended called Betty Ford. By mistake, we went into the wrong place, but we liked it immediately. Called Nachalat 52 (creative!, it’s the address), it had a Western-sort of vibe, with a lot of wood, which you typically don’t see in Israel. The shister manager Ronen promised me the upstairs room to myself for the party. They had a pool table up there and Guitar Hero hooked up to a big flat screen. I told them I needed to take a look at some other places, and I did check out Betty Ford, but I got a slimy vibe from the BF manager, who wanted my guests to each pay a minimum charge, so I went with Nachalat 52.
T.I.I., baby. It’s an expression my friend Liron’s friend made up; stands for “This is Israel.” It’s sort of a catch-phrase for whatever ridonkulous shiz goes on here or peeps try and pull. Ronen, the Nachalat 52 manager wound up imposing the same minimum charge per guest bullshiz that the other guy wanted. Basically, we had to spend 3000 ($790) shekels total or else I’d be responsible for paying the difference. You know what? I was inviting a lot of people, and I told everyone to bring their friends, so I wasn’t worried.
I mainly invited people through Facebook:
And I was so excited when the actual party came around. Although, there was a speed bump and I was pretty peeved when Ronen called me last week to confirm. At the end of the call, he tries to casually throw in – Oh, yeah, and there’s just this one little thing. You won’t be able to use this one couch and table in the corner of the room. You see, I, er, ah, booked another party of 15 for it.
T.I.I., baby. I had a choice – I could have flipped out and ripped him a new one over the phone. But I didn’t feel like doing that. And it was too late for me to find a new venue anyway. So, I just said – Look, I know what you did. When I booked the party, the place was only open two days and you jumped at my business. Since them, you’ve become a big hit, and you just want to make more money. Well, I just wanna say ‘I’m very disappointed about this.’ The vulture He promised me free drinks.
Anyway, last night was the big event. And it was super. It wasn’t just those 15 other people, though. When I got there around 8:40 p.m., the upstairs was kinda close to filled up already with random peeps. I put my shit down on two big tables (I had “just happened” to bring along a duffel bag and two big shopping bags “in case” people “happened” to bring me gifts. Look – normally, I made a point to say – NO GIFTS! Your being there is all I need or want. But this year, I’m 40, bitch, so you better be packin’ present when you walk in that place, ‘mkay? No, really – I didn’t expect everyone to give me something, but I knew my closer friends would, and that’s just how I wanted it.)
So, if I could plan it again, I would have picked a quieter place. At it’s peak, it was loud and crowded – and smoky. There is a anti-smoking indoors law in Tel Aviv just like in New York, but not every place enforces it, and this place didn’t. But, you know what – it served its purpose. I was so happy greeting each of my guests. And it gave me great pleasure to watch my different groups of friends interact with each other. There were my ulpan friends, my Tikva friends, my gay friends, friends from work, friends I made from the dog park, people I’ve schtupped and more – like some people I met on Atraf, the Israeli gay dating site and a new friend I met at a Nefesh b’Nefesh Olim welcome ceremony last month. My friend Danny had his professional cake baker friend make my cake. It was 100% from scratch – including homemade chocolate on top and homemade raspberry puree inside. [Said in the over-the-top style of Oprah introducing a guest on her show:]
I also ordered a bunch of bar food for everyone to nosh. I chose chicken fingers, calamari, little fajita-type things, and Israeli platters of humus/olives/tahina/pita. But it took a long time for the stuff to get served (delaying the cake/Happy Birthday song), and it was a lot more salad-y type stuff than I realized. Not really finger food. I’m sure we wasted a lot.
But whatevs. It was great, and I shined very brightly. I knew I was going to hear from people – 40 !?! You do NOT look 40, Scott! But I wanted to maximize that effect, and for the pictures from the night, so I shaved instead of sporting my usual stubble. With my longer hair, baby butt smooth face, and Paul Smith textured/patterned shirt that I got at a sample sale I earned every compliment I attracted. Peeps started to leave around10:30 p.m., but diehards stayed until almost midnight. Here’s some pics from the night.