Archive | July, 2013

Me Vs. You

27 Jul

“Alone Vs. Lonely”. That was what she wrote in her notepad. Crouched outside a gently buzzing little bar in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite neighbourhood of Kerem, her eyes flitted between the two words, and her mind between two worlds. The city felt heavy, oppressive. Inside the bar, shadowy figures sat sipping pink beers at high tables, relishing the heat and the cooling fizz of the alcohol as it slid down throats, or missed mouths and fell unceremoniously onto tables. She’d never seen it before, this glamorous little local bar, which had risen like a party-seeking vampire as the night fell slowly onto the city’s shoulder. “Alone Vs. Lonely.” She debated a drink, a solitary one, or perhaps one which would become two, or three, aided by the easy manner of the winking bar man, out for his tips and perhaps something more. But then she looked down at those words again, those two worlds she had etched into her note pad, and shook her head, no, not tonight. Tonight she would leave those happy people within to their gin, and their vodka and their beer, and their fearless existence living inside the ‘Versus’, that little word which she had bypassed, shortened into two little letters that her eyes skimmed over as she read back her own words. Because you don’t have to be alone, or lonely – you don’t have to choose between the lesser of two evils. A good friend told me that there’s  always a third way, and there is – the ‘Versus’ – fight back against the things that make you feel unloved, dive into the bar and raise a glass to your joy instead of drowning  your sorrows. I took a sip and watched her pack up her notepad and wander off into the night. “Next time”, she thought, “Next time I’ll join them.”

Feasting and Fasting

16 Jul

For the past few years I‘ve fasted on Tisha B Av, marking the days of bad luck – when chance became a pattern.  Last year, in London, my caffine addiction had reached new levels, so I made an exception for black coffee. I was wired all day, and by the afternoon wasn’t hungry at all. So that’s how the models do it. My flat mates and I would usually make an occasion of breaking the fast – we would have people over, prepare some food, make some tea – by the time everyone arrived it would be around 11pm and the starvation levels had reached new bounds, but it would always be worth the wait. Two years ago year we made an occasion of it despite the riots. It was day two, and a widespread sense of panic meant that the streets of Gospel Oak were empty. I think someone had tried to set fire to a bin earlier down the road, but that was as far as it went. All was silent, apart from our busy little hive of activity, marking something which had been marked on that day indelibly. That mark is still there this year – when tragedies happen they don’t just go away – their colour may wane slightly, but you never forget it – and some years the mark is harsher than ever…Which is why I found it strange this year to be chilling out in Israel, in Tel Aviv, the city of sin, clutching a beer, on a night when I really…shouldn’t… I walked past full restaurants which seemed anything but shrouded with guilt. But the atmosphere didn’t buzz as loudly as usual. I don’t think it was just me that was on edge. Friday nights out are a given here – so why was tonight any different?

On Shenkin Street most of the restaurants and bars were silent, keeping shtum for just one night. The traffic still hummed – the city that never sleeps still needs transportation.  And the air was thick with waiting, with frozen anticipation, chilly despite the heat. Even the coolest cat quakes on Halloween, even a ghost shivers when someone steps across their grave, and even trendy Tel Avivians get frightened that a habit, an affinity for misery, could rear its ugly head again. And so they eat, drink, smoke and be merry. Old habits may die hard, but new ones are much harder.

broken-coffee-mug

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

2 Jul

Sitting still, calmly, and in a room on my own, for what seems like the first time in forever. Really its only been five days – but what a five days they have been. I do love to keep myself busy – but this week the level of schlepping has reached epic proportions. Soon it will be time to chill out in the best possible way – eat some sushi, drink some vodka and head out on to the town. But for now I’ve got my feet up in suitcase (makeshift furniture), in my new apartment, nestled just above the Shuk. Yes THE shuk, that crazy snake weaving its way from the beach up to Allenby, courageous in its colours and noise, and pausing only for Shabbat.  You can hear it’s hiss from the spacious flat, although it’s more of a quiet undertone of Mizrachi beats, and the odd shout of “Hamesh Shekel!!!” In typical fashion here, the first time I met our neighbour, she was shouting at me in Hebrew, having had to come and let me in – our always professional landlord had forgotten to tell her not to put the double lock on. My emergency Hebrew kicked in and the heated debate was off to a rollicking start, before lapsing into smiles all round. Chancing on her this morning, ha kol besader (it’s all okay), and she imparted some invaluable advise for the day: “Don’t worry, Be happy!” If there’s anyone’s advice you can trust, it’s old lady sipping a beer in the middle of a market, done up to the nines, and beaming at the world.

"All that glitters is not gold..."

“All that glitters is not gold…”

NB: This was written last week, before I had internet, a bed, a wardrobe etc etc etc