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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in kelyantar's LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, December 13th, 2008
    5:33 pm
    Check it out...
     I got an article in the new "World" section of the Huffington Post!

     My plan is to contribute a series of articles about living in Israel.

     I'm excited! You can help me by "buzzing" the article or better yet, becoming a fan.

    EDIT: I've since removed the link so that this journal will remain more or less anonymous. (Yeah, right!) But if you Google my name, this is one of the first things that comes up.
    Tuesday, September 9th, 2008
    3:40 pm
    So this Content Writer thing is for real.
    My job is now to update this site with articles every day.

     Yes. Every day. We'll see how this goes.

     The history stuff has been written by me as well, and there will be more in the future.

    Monday, August 11th, 2008
    9:04 am
    The limitations of fiction...
    Last night I thought of working on my book, especially since when the night finally arrives--and with it, the cool air--I can actually think.

     But I realized that I was filled with feelings that I wanted to express, and I couldn't do that in the structure of the novel. I mean, technically I could, but it would be unprofessional and thoroughly unhinge the plot and tone.

     So I wrote a poem instead. And I realized that I have no way of knowing if it is bad or not, or which parts of it to work on, and this bothers me because I would like to write more poetry. But if creating art is akin to exploring a dark cave (Margaret Atwood's line, not mine), poetry for me is the darkest of all, because I have no clues on what makes it good. And what's worse is that I suspect no one does. Robert Graves once compared contemporary poetry to medieval alchemy--today's poets add elements of whatever they hope may become transmuted into gold. But they don't actually know.

     
    Friday, July 25th, 2008
    1:18 pm
    What a week it's been...
    After my family was shattered in the past week and a half and there was yet another bulldozer attack down the block from our apartment, maybe it wasn't the best idea to see Dark Knight in the theatre. Just before we left for the movie, I'd had two hours worth of conversations with my aunt, uncle, grandmother and cousins overseas, and those conversations really solidified the horror that had been lurking around the edges of my mind since last Wednesday. Unlike in Disney fairy tales or even contemporary media, it's not going to be okay. People can't be okay after something like this happens, especially when they were barely hanging in there to begin with.

    Anyway, we have a concept in coaching called "filters," which is essentially that the stronger we are emotionally, the better equipped we are to handle day to day stresses. I didn't realize that my filters were gone until the movie started. While  the rest of the audience laughed--sometimes at really inappropriate moments--I just huddled in my seat until it was over. It was good, don't get me wrong. Go see it. (Without your kids. It should NOT be rated PG-13!) But the pain and violence seemed very real to me. In fact the idea that it was not a conscious metaphor for Jerusalem, while definite, is hard to believe. Jerusalem isn't dark and nightmarish like Gotham (the atmosphere of the film was probably the most skillful thing about it) but the chaotic violence felt very close to home. The idea that some people commit acts of heinous violence just to "watch the world burn" hit close to home. 

    The Joker even makes a torture video of a man he has kidnapped, reminiscent of Bin Laden and Hizbullah. Someday we may learn the fates of the soldiers whose mutilated bodies were returned last week--by watching YouTube.

    I really envy people in audiences elsewhere in the world who were able to watch Dark Knight as "just a movie" without associating it in any way with real life.
    Sunday, June 29th, 2008
    3:30 am
    Out of Africa, and now?
    The wildfire of a Middle Eastern summer is fully upon us now. Year after year of momentous summers have conditioned me to feel them as times of intense possibility, even though this one promises little more than a slow, hot and ponderous turning into the new year. I was married last summer, which ended a good deal of my wanderings, at least alone.  And in equal measure ended possibilities for both new (generally unwise, impossible) romance and deep, salty heartbreak (the inevitable result).  At last I'm ready to transcend the cliche of the romantically wounded female artist. It's about time.

    In my year-long career in journalism, I've driven myself hard to do things I'd have never thought I could do.  I've had to develop an attitude of "Just go!" Just go to the jail in Ramle to interview the convicts there--men of the poorer classes put away for violent crime, nothing but a white plastic chair and guards between us. Just go to the university in Tel Aviv and pretend to know about science when the white-haired professors try to stare you down, wary, not really wanting to talk. Just go hunting all over Arab Haifa, past the magnificent B'hai gardens into the winding alleys, seeking the headquarters of an Arab theatre company. Just go to meet a famous poet who has just got off the plane from L.A., and engage in a deep two hour conversation. As T.S. Eliot would say, "all this and so much more."

    So when I pitched a story involving the African refugees who live in shelters in Tel Aviv, I knew it would necessitate a trip to the shelters. And I knew it was the last thing I believed I could do, but that nonetheless I would just go.

    So earlier this month I found myself arriving in the Central Bus Station in south Tel Aviv, an area so seedy that inner-city New York can scarcely compete. Even the taxi drivers are your enemy, charging at least twice the price to any unwary traveler who doesn't know how to use Tel Aviv's confusing bus system.  Tanned and sweaty, the drivers lounge about smoking, partners in crime, all agreeing that sixty shekel for a ten minute ride makes perfect sense. It's an area where someone who isn't careful can get eaten alive.

    For the first time in my career, I had a professional photographer accompany me in this venture. I'll call him Daks, and I had never met him until that day. When Daks and I arranged to meet by the bus station and walk from there to meet the shelter organizer, I had assumed he was coming on foot. As it turned out, Daks is broad with long black hair and was on a motorcycle, camera equipment stowed behind him. So Daks sped on ahead in his motorcycle, hair streaming from his blue helmet, while I set out to find the park where I'd be meeting John, the organizer.

    Thus began my day in the life of a hero. I had mistakenly believed that John was taking time away from his work to give me a tour of the shelters. As it turned out, he was taking me along as he went through his typical day, because he clearly did not have a moment to spare. His cellphone kept ringing. His car, into which I climbed, was packed full of huge bags, the contents of which I'd discover later on. John is an immigrant from Ethiopia, who used to work for an NGO that gave HIV/AIDS counseling. When thousands of refugees began flooding into Israel without a place to go, John started the shelters.

    The refugee situation is complex, and will comprise a great deal of the article. The main issue is that many of them--people who have come here from Sudan, Eritrea, and the Ivory Coast--have yet to be recognized legally as refugees.  Israel is a meeting point between Africa and Europe, and the latter is closed to the refugees. They escape over the Egyptian border, mostly because conditions in Egypt are horrific. Recently Egypt deported hundreds of refugees back to their native countries, where they will most likely be tortured and killed. So that leaves tiny Israel as one of the sole places of escape.

    Another important note: Nearly a thousand Darfuri refugees live in Israel, and have acquired better status here than nearly anywhere else in the world. The much-publicized Darfurian genocide drew attention to the plight of these people. Unfortunately the respective situations in South Sudan and Eritrea are more murky, but we know for a fact that to deport people back to these places would be to risk their lives and physical wellbeing. 

    South Tel Aviv is a world of crime and poverty unto itself. Before we could get into the shelters, a rail-thin young woman accosted me, her eyes spasming in opposite directions, and asked for money. (I'm a freelance writer, so spare cash is not really an issue.) We ducked into the shelter, little more than an opening between two ragged stores, with no door. It opened into a corridor where the bundled limbs of a sleeping man were huddled on a putrid couch. Next to the couch was a thin mattress with a single rag for a blanket. John explained that at night, hundreds of people spread out on this floor to sleep. Most of those hundreds of people were now out working, trying to earn enough money to leave the shelter. 

    A white man with red-rimmed eyes sat on the couch, smoking a cigarette. John ordered him to leave, and an altercation followed that escalated in pitch as the strange man insisted that no one could make him leave. I stood ill at ease, alert from New York training, worried that this apparently desperate man would pull a gun. But he didn't; he stood, stamped his foot, and trudged out the door with a final imprecation hurled at John. The Ethiopian calmly told us that drug users and drunks from the area were constantly using this corridor, and it was hard to keep them out.

    There were rooms off the corridor where pornographic posters hung. The previous incarnation of this place was a brothel.

    The genesis of the shelter in south Tel Aviv is still unbelievable to me. In January, the army was ordered to drive a thousand refugees from the prison in Beersheva and dump them in the streets of Tel Aviv. The jails were too crowded. So people huddled shivering on the streets until John created the first shelter, a place which was one big room with no amenities. For a thousand people. This new shelter is a paradise in comparison.

     
    Monday, May 12th, 2008
    5:26 pm
    We're back
    There will be a more detailed post later (or more than one) but I just wanted to let people know that we're back from our trip. In ten days we explored medieval cities, Renaissance art,  and hiked through olive groves and wildflowers by the Mediterranean. It feels like we were gone for months, because we were stretched so much every moment. Hardly a vacation, but profoundly worthwhile...    
    Sunday, April 13th, 2008
    1:17 pm
    Oh, awesome.
     The former poet laureate that I got to interview back in January won the 2008 Pulitzer.

     Well, I've definitely had the pleasure of interacting with literary celebrities. Now to work on becoming one myself! ;)

     
    Sunday, April 6th, 2008
    5:38 pm
    The smell of April rain reminds me of home.

     We will go back someday.  
    Saturday, March 22nd, 2008
    10:01 pm
    Things that make me happy today...
    1) I have a brand new MACBOOK and it's gorgeous! This is my first-ever laptop, unless you count the three year-old one my father lent me that had been his (and I don't). Plus, I'm loving the operating system compared to Windows, which I thought I liked.

    2) We're going to Italy in the Spring!!! (I am reading history books and teaching myself Italian...to prepare for a ten-day trip. Because I'm nuts.) Once we decided, I spent a week researching and booking accommodations like mad.

    3) Purim is THREE DAYS this year (in Jerusalem). That means more time to party! We went to a picnic today, and are making a meal with friends tomorrow. Tonight we'll check out the Purim nightlife, since it's in our backyard.

    So yeah, off to get dressed...!
    Monday, March 10th, 2008
    9:34 pm
    Dust and Moonlight Wanderings
    Today a dust storm rolled through the streets of Jerusalem, the culmination of a week-long shaarav--a heat wave perpetuated by desert winds. As if borne on these hot winds has been the violence of the past week, first in the north and now here in the heart of Jerusalem. We were at the engagement party of dear friends, sipping drinks and eating cubed cheese when we heard the sirens. Soon we found out, even amid our celebration, that boys in Kiryat Moshe had been shot to death by a terrorist. When you find out such a thing, it is impossible to know what to do or say. For those of us who have lived here a long time, it's an old story by now. Old in the way of curdled milk, not of sorrow grown dim with time, because it is constantly happening.

     It's a strange thing to be at a party that, in its essence, is a celebration of the future, and to be reminded there of how precarious the future is for anyone who chooses to live in this place.

     Last weekend we hosted these same friends for a Shabbat meal. He's a tour guide, so we ventured with him into the Christian Quarter of the Old City. In all my years in Jerusalem, I had never been there, which is true of many Jews in Jerusalem. It is probably one of the hottest pilgrimage destinations for Catholics in the world, and for the most part we let them have it.  

    I discovered that the square outside the Church of Holy Sepulchre is possibly the most fascinating people-watching spot in all of Jerusalem--and perhaps even one of the best in the world. We sat on the steps and I tried to listen to my friend talking of the history, but it was difficult not to be distracted by the people all around us. Nuns and monks swathed in black strode purposefully through the crowds as if oblivious to them, or deep in thought. One monk wore a bright red backpack, which I thought was an odd contrast to the rest of his apparel. Many sects of Christianity lay claim to this church, so the monks and nuns ranged from Eastern European to African to the Greek Orthodox. They all have their own particular modes of dress.

    Arabs sat along the edge of the square--why, I am not sure. Maybe it was to bask in the balmy air, one of the first warm days since the winter. An old man sat hunched with a steel tray on his lap, whereupon rested a single glass of mud-brown coffee. Other Arabs congregated in the square, alone and in groups. One group was a family, and the woman was young and wearing a festive pink headscarf with a white lace dress. Another Arab man in a buttoned-down shirt sat on a stone by the entrance to the church, smoking a cigarette, looking as if he were waiting for someone. It's occurred to me since that he might have been what passes for security at the door to the church, but if so, he doesn't seem that uptight about it.

     Tour groups from Eastern Europe flooded the square. Some of them stared at us, perhaps wondering what we were. Many of the pale, pale-haired women wore doilies and other unusual head coverings, making it obvious that they were covering their heads for this specific occasion. Later, on our way back through the Arab market (which is also the Via Dolorosa down which Jesus is said to have carried his cross), there were tourists that looked and sounded like they were from Germany, singing and bearing a cross up the narrow, tunneled stairs that lead to the church.

     We didn't go into the main part of the church, but we did wander up some stairs to get to the roof and out. As we did so, we passed silently through a room in which Ethiopian monks sang a prayer facing exquisite paintings of the Madonna and Child. A melancholy sound, timeless. Once outside, we reached the roof courtyard which leads to the streets of the Arab suq. The courtyard is ringed with tiny green doors--built in a time when people weren't nourished as they are today.

    We passed through the Muslim Quarter, and our guide pointed out the graffiti that had been painted on many walls. Apparently, what had looked to our untrained eyes to be random symbols--the Dome of the Rock, a flower, a dove, a large rectangle--in fact meant that someone who lived within had gone on the Hajj to Mecca. The Dome of the Rock represented Jerusalem, the place where the journey had begun. The dove signified a peaceful journey. And the rectangle stood for the ultimate destination, the kaba.

     I noticed the contrast between Arab women and their children. The women are wrapped like gifts in sombre hues and satin textures, while their little girls run at their sides in tiny skirts and colorful tights, their black pigtails bouncing. We passed two young women who were smiling slyly and chattering rapidly to one another, and I wondered how they felt about the restrictions with which they've been raised. I imagine, though I don't know, that the number of discontented women in their society is similar in number to those in mine, i.e., that there are not many. In my experience, people are happy to do whatever it takes to have a respected place in society, especially if they don't know the difference anyway. That's why I have seldom found other women in the Orthodox world with whom I could relate--most are happy to marry young and adhere to all the restrictions as if they are regular as breathing. Which of course they are--I remember those days, and how easy it was to fall in line.

     Now, when I walk outside at night, I don't stand out as a married woman. In my society, married women wear hair coverings--from chic hats in the Modern Orthodox world to encompassing headscarves of standard Orthodoxy. I wear a gold wedding ring engraved with Celtic knot designs, but otherwise nothing on the outside is different from when I was single. Most of the time I don't think anything of this, but walking alone at night is another story, with overgrown boys (I will not call them men) catcalling and whistling as I stride around a corner and onto the main road, for safety.

     On the other hand, it's good to walk alone sometimes, to see the world from an unprotected vantage. Because when I walk with my husband we are within a protective circle, and it's important to be able to remember what it was like before we had each other, back when the world seemed like a jungle with no shelter in sight. I don't need to go back there, but it's important to remember...to feel the pulse of the world outside without the muffling of any shield, as I once did. And then go back again.
    Sunday, November 18th, 2007
    10:03 pm
    Reprise of Randomness
    It occurs to me that the tone of this journal, almost from its beginning, has been somewhat akin to that of a travelogue. Everything I take in here is a mix of new impressions and the weight of memory. And the same holds true for New York, when I was there the second time: I knew the place, but I didn't, because I had only known it as a child. What I had known was the carpeted rooms, the pizza places near the house, the library. My elementary school, a warren of brightly-painted halls containing 800+ Orthodox girls in identical button-down shirts paired with navy blue or plaid pleated, mid-calf length skirts.

    In so many ways, and in spite of the beauty in those days, that wasn't real life at all. And when I returned after a 7-year hiatus, New York didn't welcome me back. Nothing personal, it's just not that kind of city. It was January and frigid in a way that would be inconceivable to native Middle Easterners. Few people remembered who I was, and even fewer could care less. Pounding the icy sidewalks to and from the subways became a ritual that defined the New York experience. Figuring out how to swipe my Metro card, getting yelled at by an African American woman for dropping my gloves in the train ("What's wrong with you?" she demanded as I stepped off the 6 train and into the wind tunnel of the Lexington and 33rd stop). Almost like getting yelled at by Israelis (a daily ritual here), but not quite: the rhythms here are different, and the air is kinder in winter. 

    Six years later New York was starting to feel like home, so what did I do? Why, I did what any sane person would do: I packed my bags and left.

    Of course it was far more complex than that. It even made sense in a way. But the result is that home isn't anywhere in particular, and that even when I am "home," I am traveling.  Sometimes I catch myself wondering why I have so many possessions, when I'm going to be moving around so much. I prefer to keep everything we have portable and not too indispensable. I have no interest at present in owning a big-screen TV, even if we could afford one. It's too permanent and intractable a possession.

     Jerusalem is becoming more and more beautiful, even amid the terrible threats that beset the city. The slumlike areas that used to dominate the city center have been replaced with charming pedestrian-only streets, dozens if not hundreds of competing cafes and restaurants with their own character, and even more diversity than ever--religious men with huge kippot mingle amiably with secular men; the other night we passed such a mixed group dancing on Ben Yehuda to the frenzied beat of percussion drums. At that moment no hatred, no suspicion, only the unity of dance.

    The stores that clearly cater to the poor or very Orthodox still exist in some areas farther to the fringe, but now they serve as a curiosity more than anything else for most of us. I walk by and wonder who on earth buys those frumpy shoes, but even more important--who makes them? I wouldn't be surprised if it is a little old Israeli man in his tiny apartment, cobbling away, who produces these clumsy offerings.

    The clothes, I would be more inclined to see being stitched by a tiny old woman who can no longer see the colors of the fabrics she randomly pieces together, and has never known the feel of quality fabrics in the first place. She has lived her entire life, from birth until the age of 80, in a country smaller than the state of New Jersey in a city smaller than Queens, and has never been on a plane. She lives below the poverty line, but doesn't know it. She buys bread and milk every morning at the corner makolet, often along with pita, tahini, cucumbers and tomatoes, which she drags in a wheeled cart behind her. 
     
     The truth is that I've made up this woman, and I have no way of knowing if she is stereotype or archetype. Either way, I suspect there are many variants of her, and of the old cobbler in his pre-1967 apartment, neither of whom have ever dreamed of traveling outside the country. The low-end shops that used to dominate Jerusalem were of that generation, or culture, and it is in decline. Youth and vibrancy are taking its place, and intellectual inquiry, and a desire to see the world. At the same time, Americans heedlessly buying summer homes in Jerusalem are driving up prices for Israelis, and the ensuing paradox is that just as Jerusalem is being revitalized, it is also dying.

    And sad as that is--wrenching, even--a part of me observes this coldly, as if it is already part of history. A part of me is already thinking: this is good, for now. The cafes, the jazz clubs, the nights we walk hand in hand through the city center and absorb the life that is so powerfully overflowing its streets. The evenings we spend with friends, raising a glass (or a bottle), living life as it should be lived. All of it is good for now.

    And where to, next?
    Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
    9:26 pm
    Bloody HELL
    This evening I auditioned for a community theatre production. A lot of people auditioned, and I've never acted before, so I felt like an idiot for even trying, but I went.

     Just now I got a phone call: I've been cast.

     Whaaa?

     Let's see, what's on my plate right now? Freelance journalism, grantwriting, a coaching course (yes, I just started that and it's awesome), Dale Carnegie training, an art class, and now, apparently, a play.

     And with all this, I MUST make time for my manuscript, which has been sorely neglected.

     I might need an intervention!
    Saturday, September 15th, 2007
    11:48 pm
    One Year
    On September 13, 2006, I went on a first date. I had been on many first dates before, in a few countries. I started dating (the Orthodox way, i.e., being set up) when I was 19, and in seven years I'd gone out on so many first dates that the number probably exceeds 100. It will perhaps come as no surprise, then, that by 2006 I'd lost faith in the whole business.

    But that date in mid-September had the curious significance of being the last first date that I would undertake before returning to New York, this time for good. A good friend insisted that I had to meet this one guy, and then if that didn't work out, I could go.

    We went to a play that was taking place in The Lab, a bar that doubles as a center for trendy and occasionally bizarre cultural events. We had time to kill before the play started, so we sat in the bar and talked. He was cute and seemed beyond cool, with his curly ponytail and easy way of making conversation. Too cool to be interested in me, I thought, but still we were getting along.

    The play was ostensibly about the Greek myth of Orpheus, so I was excited. As it turns out, that was a mistake. There was no dialogue and it was a full hour and a half of trippy nuttiness that only made sense in the heads of the Russian-Israeli pothead artists who created it. I didn't think I should share this opinion, however, since the ticket had been expensive and I hadn't paid for it.  My date didn't want to put it down because he thought that might be rude, since I pretended to find it interesting. It was only months later that we both admitted to each other that the play was utter crap.

     That was the first date. We'd had a pleasant half hour conversation followed by a nonsensical play. There was no way to know how it would go from there.

    The second date was a better indicator, as it was six hours long. We started in a coffee shop in the city center, walked the forty-minute distance to my apartment (stopping for pizza and beer on the way) and then sat in my living room and talked for hours. He wanted tea, and I was embarrassed that  I had trouble finding the tea in my kitchen cabinet, since I never drink it. The next day, the first thing I did was clear out the kitchen cabinet and put the tea within easy reach. I couldn't remember ever being so strangely excited about a date before, let alone moving around my kitchen to accommodate him.

    Mint tea, it was, every time.  We were still going out when the cold and winter rains came, and we started to stay in more and more. Mint tea, music, shopping at the farmer's market for cooking ingredients, whiskey and wine. Those are images I can share, without sharing too much.

     This Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, coincided with the anniversary of our first date. The last year was the happiest year of my life. I'm looking forward to the new one with hope that I would never have expected to feel more than a year ago. For those of you familiar with the occurrences in my life that made the preceding years a dark tunnel--at last, there is light. And I am undeserving and thankful.
     
    Monday, September 10th, 2007
    3:00 pm
    Texture and Sound
    Cranes have a unique way of dividing space. An artist that I met in a cafe recently commented on this, and I notice it now. Outside the living room window of our fourth-floor apartment in the city center, we can see at least six cranes on any given day, lifting, loading. By night their vast, black arms intersect across constellations. We are high enough to be at eye level with workers perched on scaffolding, hard at work on a new building across the street. Jerusalem is an ancient city, yet is always changing: new buildings are added, old ones destroyed. Cranes dip above the low rooftops and loom over buildings that existed long before cranes ever did.

     Living in town is an entirely different experience from living in Katamon. There is always the noise of traffic, even until the small hours of the morning; there is a perpetual hum of movement and of life. We love to walk around town at night, taking in that life, being a part of it and its eclectic mix of people. It's not like living in Manhattan, which is trendy and expensive; living in the city center of Jerusalem is so trendy that until recently, no one wanted to do it, and the prices still reflect that reality to a degree. Our building is the only residential building on our street, which is otherwise populated with nightclubs and interior decorating stores. We are right off the main thoroughfare of Jaffa Street and near the walls of the Old City, which we can see from the kitchen window.

    It is a monster of a building, with six entrances and over 70 apartments. We live among students, elderly people who have been here for years, lawyers' offices, and Arab and Russian families. It's old and coming apart, but everything works. People we know can't believe we chose to live there instead of in an established community, but the truth is that nothing could make me happier than to live in a place where nothing is expected, there are no rules of conduct and dress other than basic decency, and we can be comfortably anonymous in a crowd and thereby build a life that is uniquely and absolutely of our own construction. I bought a gypsy skirt the other day: it's about ten different colors and was hanging on a rack of similar skirts for 45 shekel apiece (about 10 dollars). Sometimes I think I am a gypsy, and that the only way I could ever have gotten married was by finding someone with similar aspirations: someone who would be willing to wander with me. We won't be here more than a year, unless our landlady kicks it; she is genuinely evil and will make sure we can't sign on again. We will find another place, and--I am hoping--we will travel now and again.

    We pick up friends easily, mostly because my husband (I'll call him J. from now on) is so good with people. A woman chance-met in a grocery store (she asked J. which bread was the whole wheat, because it was all in Hebrew) became a friend we can stay with if we travel to Pennsylvania. Israel is a place to meet people who are on the way to somewhere; painful because you always have to say goodbye, but exhilirating in that you end up knowing people from everywhere, and of all types--very much like New York city. The only difference, of course, is that nearly everyone we meet is Jewish--but there are more types of Jews here than anywhere else in the world.

    Recently J. suggested we go walking in the Old City. For the first time in more than a decade, I walked in the Arab market in the Muslim Quarter. The only way I'd agree to go in there--it feels like an enclosed area, as the streets are very narrow and the sky is for the most part hidden--was if we'd pretend to be American tourists. As far as they knew, we didn't know Hebrew, and had come from America. I was still scared, as people have been murdered there now and then--though only Jews, of course. Maybe I was a coward, and there were several openly Jewish people moving freely through the market, but being in an area where there was no way we could have defended ourselves made me tense.

     I think part of the reason for this is that it was impossible to blend in or pass unnoticed. Before we even entered the market, a burly man was urging J. to come see his store. He even asked--I am pretty sure as a joke--if J. would sell me to him. "You're a lucky man," he said, as I tensed and pulled J. away with me.

    I'm sure it was a joke. But it was not the sort of joke you'd hear from an Israeli or an American. In talks about it later, J. explained the alien feel of it all with the analogy of music--that Arab music, with its quarter-notes that don't exist in Western music, sounds like noise to our ears until we become accustomed to it. And the dance of social interactions probably works in similar ways. The salespeople in the Arab market were very aggressive, more than I've ever experienced. It was hard to get away. And the children...boys would come up to us, there would ensue a dialogue like this:

     Boy: "Where you going?"
    Us: "Um, the church of so-and-so."
    Boy: "It's over there. See? Where you from? You go that way." (pointing to a sign) "Now...you give me money?"

    This happened more than once. Boys no higher than our waists approached us to ask us where we were going, just so they could point to a sign and charge us for the service rendered. I don't know if it's that they are so poor that they are reduced to begging like that, or if they are like boys anywhere else, and just want extra money for candy and toys. I honestly have no idea. I don't know why there are so many children in the streets, of all sizes and unaccompanied by adults. I don't know why the women--covered from head to toe in cloth--always seem to be alone and in a hurry. All I know is that I didn't want to take a turn into any side streets, where the stone pavement was even more cracked and broken, and where there was even more litter. On barbed wire above our heads hung a dirty Israeli flag--whether as a mockery or by the insistence of Israeli police, again, I don't know.

    The market itself is fascinating. I've heard that when there is meat there, you can get entire animal carcasses, skin and all, but we didn't see that. Instead there is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to see in a Middle Eastern market: the brass lamps, the carpets, the harem outfits with clattering bells. I don't know if there is any authenticity to these things, or if they are manufactured specifically to cater to the daydreams of tourists. All the storekeepers do their damnedest to get you to come in. "You're from America?" asked one. "Come inside--I was in California."

    Turning into the Jewish Quarter--an abrupt transition, one minute you are in one place and the next in the other--is to enter another world. It's clean. The stones, even the paving stones, look as if they have been polished. The buildings are modern, although still medieval in appearance, and perfectly shaped. Is it because we are oppressive, and neglect one quarter of the Old City while taking all the good for ourselves? I don't know, but I'm sure plenty of other people have opinions, informed or not.

    In the Jewish Quarter you can hear the solemn clang of church bells intermingling with the megaphoned cry of the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer. Religion is a tangible presence there, inescapable. Anyone who believes that religion has nothing to do with the conflicts ought to come here and see for themselves how real it is here. The bareness and heat seem to magnify every sound, and every echo has a peculiar resonance, as if it has been going on forever, for centuries.

    The ground floor windows are right on the street--you can see in if the shutters are open--and because it was during the Sabbath (or as we call it, Shabbat) people were at home. It was during the last meal of the Sabbath just before it ends, the evening meal; people were indoors and singing, the same songs in every home. Yedid Nefesh, Psalms. Church bells, the muezzin, and families singing. The sounds all mixed up, the buildings cheek by jowl, while the people couldn't be more completely removed from one another.


    Thursday, May 24th, 2007
    11:37 pm
    No. WAY.

    I knew there was no way that the Veronica Mars finale would be that great--the episodes that preceded it were nothing much, and the writers were unprepared for cancellation, blah blah...I know every geeky detail. But that is NO excuse for the transcendent disappointment that this finale was. I can't remember ever being so disappointed by a finale, ever. 

    I'm not even going to bother to analyze it because frankly, it's unworthy. It was just one big load of LAME and I feel betrayed.

    Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
    3:07 pm
    Writers are crazy

    Only a writer would nearly text-message a friend: "I just got the most amazing rejection!"

     Heh.

    Monday, May 7th, 2007
    11:48 am
    Call for comments
    I wrote a review of Spiderman 3 on my site  http://madwomanintheattic.typepad.com/   and would enjoy hearing people's thoughts.
    Tuesday, April 17th, 2007
    2:06 am
    I'm engaged...
    That says it all, doesn't it? ;)
    Wednesday, March 28th, 2007
    1:42 pm
    Farewell, David Honigsberg

     Just this week, I got back in touch with David after a year's lapse in communication. I'm generally insecure so I thought he had forgotten me. Then I got a message from him in response to a message that I posted to a mailing list, and it turned out that he hadn't forgotten, that he was doing well in all aspects of his life and was delighted to hear that things were going well for me. I owed him an email that I meant to write this morning, before I learned the shocking news of his passing. He was one of my first friends in a group that at the time was very intimidating to me. He got me in to a SFWA party as his guest at Worldcon and introduced me around, which at the time was my first exposure to the world of SF&F writers.

    All in all he was a kind, creative, humble soul who always gave more than he asked for in return. And that's just coming from someone who didn't have the privilege of a close friendship with him.

     My heart goes out to gryphonrose and jendaby and anyone else who reads this and knew him well. I am so, so sorry.

     
    Wednesday, March 7th, 2007
    9:30 pm
    Announcement
    I've started a book review blog! If all goes well,  I'll be updating it on a consistent basis.

    The link: http://madwomanintheattic.typepad.com/
     
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