[Deep] Reflections of a [Returning] New Yorker.

“You are from New York. Therefore you are just naturally interesting”-Hannah, on Girls.

“New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down”-LCD Soundsystem

Once upon a time there was a girl who was born and raised in New York City and didn’t think about it too much. This girl (she loved to draw) rode subways to middle school and trick or treated down apartment hallways and was impressed by the lush yards of the New Jersey houses she would occasionally visit.  Surrounded by artists in an art high school, she went to groovy parties and didn’t  know they were groovy because she had nothing to compare them too.

Then the girl went off to an international college in Israel, where she was embarrassed by the excitement other people showed when she told them  her origins. It seemed her new classmates either thought her life in New York resembled  Sex and the City  (her protestations as to the ludicrousness of Carrie’s lifestyle in comparison to her meager one column a week employment status fell upon deaf ears), or a densely populated commune of liberalism and fashionable snobbery (This she denied vigorously, until she would slip up and mention a protest her friends were organizing or make an offhand remark about the return to culinary basics as evidenced by the recent popularity of organ meats on trendy restaurant menus) .

Tired of trying to defend her normalcy, the girl gave in and shut up when new acquaintances waxed on over how lucky she was, preferring the company of friends who didn’t give a damn. Upon her graduation and eventual return to New  York, the girl realized she had changed in two significant ways. One, having spent so much time away from the city with people of wildly different cultural attitudes, she  now fully realized how lucky she really was to have grown up there. And two, having spent so much time away from the city with people of wildly different cultural attitudes, she found herself looking upon the teeming masses wondering, for the first time, if all these people weren’t batshit crazy.

The Hiatus Concludes.

What does it mean to be on hiatus? so much has happened since I  last posted about my ugly mug (actual mug, not my face) almost 2 whole months ago.

I had exams. I graduated college. I went on all the trips I had been putting off. I said good bye to Herzliya and Tel Aviv. I packed up my apartment, and closed the suitcase on 3 1/2  years of living in Israel. I flew home. Ate some Thai food. Wrote my final papers. Signed up for improv classes. Was a camp counselor for a week. And am now on my way to Cape cod for the weekend.

I regret that I couldn’t blog about all the amazing things I did and saw in that last month I was in Israel. Things were too crazy, and it was a full time job just keeping my conflicting emotions about leaving this place I called home for so many years from spilling over and causing a minor environmental disaster. I’ll try and share my experiences in a series of “blogbacks”, while I continue this blog, POSTGRAD.

See you at the beach.

The Ugliest Mug in the World.

This, my friends, is The Ugliest Mug in the World. I chanced upon it today while tagging along on a shopping mission at a small home-goods store. I like these small, family-run businesses because you can never really be sure what you are going to find in them. Lord knows I was not expecting this to be hidden among the innocuous flowered mugs sitting on the shelf.

Like an enigma, this mug is puzzling and inexplicable; rife with hidden meaning. Why is the pony singing? Why is it wearing lipstick? Why does it have two sets of back feet?  Is the handle the same pony? Or a mutant cat-pony hybrid? Is the handle pony creeping on the mug pony, or vice versa?  The questions were endless.

I brought the cup over to the saleslady/owner for some answers.

“Do you know where you got this mug?” I asked.

She peered under the mug, searching for  a mark, a symbol, anything to identify this cursed ceramic. Spotless.

Looking slightly perplexed, she shrugged.

“Nope.”

And with the transfer of 12 Shekels (about $3) the mug was mine.

Unwrapping my purchase at home, I realized what had been naggingly familiar about the mug pony’s face. It looked like David Bowie.

This mug has the appeal of a train wreck. It is horrifying and grotesque, yet I cannot look away. I am actually becoming kind of inspired by it; If there is room in the world for a mug with a singing, prancing, David Bowie-esque horse thing and a cat-pony handle,  then surely there is room enough for me.

And so, with the smugness of one who knows she is unbeatable, I challenge YOU, dear reader, to find a mug uglier than this one.

It is a task I do not envy.

 

 

Culture Wars: Cars.

In the hustle and bustle of a return to my “normal” life as a student in Israel, I had to put on hold for a bit my reflections on the differences between the car culture in Israel and New York.

These reflections were formulated as I wandered the vast halls of  Javits convention center in New York for the annual car show. The car show is something of a family tradition, though in past years it has been the exclusive domain of my father and brother.

Imagine a playground covering over 675,000 square feet of space. Now imagine that that playground is made up entirely of shiny new cars and motorcycles, and you have an inkling of how cool the Auto show is.

I made the rounds with my brother, slipping in and out of leather interiors and making informed comments over the size of the glove compartment of the new Jaguar (spacious) and the legroom of a Mini Cooper (Anti-Spacious). When we slipped into a new car, our identities and personas were subtly changed, from a family on mile 400 of a grueling road trip (minivan) to chic business people on our way to the company retreat in the Hamptons (Audi luxury sedan).

The car show made me think of the unique bond Americans have with their cars. For us, cars are more than a motor conveyance; they are an accessory, indicative of the kind of lifestyle we have, or wish we had. My father leases his car instead of purchasing because he (and by extension, the rest of the family) derives a child-like pleasure in switching vehicles every 3 1/2 years. I can look back on my life easily by recalling the sequence of automobiles:

Ages 0-21.5:

  1. Red car (make unknown),
  2. Green Ford station wagon with the awesome back seats,
  3. Undistinguished grey Saturn sedan, black Ford Crossover (11-14),
  4.  Black Ford Explorer (14-18),
  5. Black Toyota Rav4,
  6. Black Toyota Rav4 Sports edition with sunroof.

 As you can tell by the list, sometime after the age of ten (after the Saturn) my mother made her preference for black cars known.

In Israel you would be hard put to find a black car, or any dark colored car for that matter. In a country so damn hot, attracting more sun to a black metal rooftop is simply not worth it. The majority of the cars on the road are white or light colored, and the most of them are sedans or tiny cars imported from Europe. Israel lacks the wide open spaces America has to experiment with bigger  and bigger cars, all the more so because Israeli cities are for the most part based on ancient foundations that are not conducive to extensive road-widening. In an effort to reduce the traffic on already congested roads, the government places high import taxes on any cars being sold in the country, making a car an expensive commitment.

I don’t drive very much; by the time I got my license I was out of the house on my way to college in Herzliya, a suburb off of Tel- Aviv where having a car is unnecessary, especially for a student on a budget. The beauty of the car show is that you don’t need to drive to appreciate the cars, it’s the appreciation of the people who love them that makes it so much fun.

I needed to take a picture of this to prove such a thing could exist. At the Porsche stall, a little gift section was placed with cutesy, asshole-y things like gold cufflinks with the Porsche logo or a sign that read “Porsche Parking Only”.  But this, the set of Porsche ice cubes for $20.00 took the cake. Who wouldn’t want one of these baby’s?

The Ladies of the Car Show: 

Some cars were so special they had their own private lady person standing around next to them, presumably to look pretty while guarding the car from theft. They all looked really bored.

Rooftop in Bushwick Eating Classy Treats.

For the past three years, I have gone back and forth between my school (in Israel) and home (in NYC). I usually come back once or twice a year; a two week trip for spring break in April and a 3 month trip in the summer.

The shorter trips are the best, because they serve as condensed reminders of the dual lives I lead; I exist as myself in two separate universes separated by 5,000 miles and a 12 hour plane ride. I always try and fit a year’s worth of experience in two weeks, carefully scheduling my days to meet as many friends as possible, eat as much thai food as possible, and walk as many streets as  possible. Balancing this with my desire to also veg at home with my family is sometimes a tricky act.

In two weeks I run around all over the city, becoming so immersed that I forget that I am here for a short time, that my friends will forgive me if I can’t hang out, that I have an entire life waiting for me back in Israel (at least, I do until graduation). I become stressed that my plan to fit a year of experience in an entire two weeks doesn’t…..actually……work.

Which is fine: Because when I cross out my schedule and let go of my plans ahead, I get the opportunity to climb up to the roof of my friend’s house in Bushwick and look at the sunset suffuse the air with depth, munching on classy pastries the whole time.

FOOD UPDATE: The above are assorted cakes/pastries from one of the oldest and greatest Italian bakeries in the city, Veniero’s. Specifically in the box are a red velvet cupcake, a mini-fuit cheesecake, a slice of sicilian rum cake, a mini napoleon and a mini raspberry tart.

FURTHER FOOD UPDATE: Not mentioned in this post is the fact that these classy pastries succeeded a lunch of transcendant lobster rolls at Luke’s Lobster and a corn dog from Crif Dogs. The lobster roll, with the sweetest, most tender meat wrapped in a butter grilled slice of bread gave us what can only be described as a religious  feeling of awe, while the corn dog was simple gluttony.

FURTHER, FURTHER FOOD UPDATE: The above food treats were not documented more in detail on this blog because my lack of iphone means I cannot snap a picture of my food fast enough before I eat it. You’ll just have to use your imagination and take my word for it that it was delicious.

Child’s Play.

The first real day of summer  packs the punch of an entire sunny week. You wake up early, it’s cold, then magically a few hours later the sun cranks up the volume and the world begins to warm. Everything becomes simpler. You’re with people, suddenly they are your greatest friends. You’re outside,  and suddenly you all reach the unanimous decision to walk to the park.

A word about the park. Herzliya may not be the sexiest, the popping-est, the coolest town in Israel- but by God, the Herzliya park kicks all kinds of ass. Hands down the greatest playground ever built resides here, and it is accessible only if you walk to it (or drive, but ew….cars.)

This playground was built by people who didn’t bother with petty questions like “Would a child get scared walking a rope bridge 30 feet in the air?”

or  fuddle around with ideas like ” Perhaps it would be better to make this jungle gym simpler so that children don’t fall and lose their self-esteem”.

No. These park builders created an enormous wonderland full of potential rope-burn, high swing sets, complicated ladders, dizzying heights, slides that loop and see-saws that whirl. There is even a zip line. A ZIP LINE. I remember when playgrounds in NYC used to be awesome-there was one right by my house that was huge and wooden, with all kinds of climby things and swingy things.  You could wriggle under the whole structure to conduct secret meetings with your team (you always were on a team) or hang from the beams and leap down.

That park waas demolished and replaced by a small, soulless metal “park”; all curves and no corners, the swings removed because they were a safety hazard, the slides two meager stumps that led nowhere. They destroyed the wooden wonderland because-get this- it gave kids splinters. Those splinters were a badge of honor, proving your toughness and climbing ability. Maybe the new park hurt less, but the metal it was made of was cold and unyielding.

So this summer day, drunk with sunshine, we threw our bags on the sand and raced, yes RACED to the swings, where in a diplomatic show of playground politics the current users graciously allowed us a set, jumping off and running towards the monkey bars.

Oh, the glory of swings! that feeling of power as you arch your back and kick your legs, propelling yourself higher and higher in ever-increasing arcs; that little bit of G-force when you swing down tickling your belly. Enough swings. Onwards to the slide!  up and up you climb, traversing a rope bridge that rocks in the wind, delightfully scaring the shit out of you. The slide is so high you cannot see the end, but no matter down you go and it is exactly like you are flying; the feeling so exhilarating you climb and do it all again and again and again.

Ouch. Having jumped off that last swing, we noticed our muscles beginning to protest. The backs of our thighs, the sinews of our arms were sore as if we had just worked out in the gym. We looked around us in bewilderment. How were these kids still running around? Not achy all over from that last climb to the slide?

Maybe we remembered for a brief while what it was like to be kids again. But as we limped off into the sunset, it was clear that we were kids no longer. So what, though? forget our gym memberships and our trainers, forget yoga class and spinning; we’ll just go to the park-these kids are in way better shape than we’ll ever be.

.

A Visit To My Grandparents, In Verse.

Part One: Pantry Love

My safta cooks for me when I come visit

In her pantry all the ingredients; kilos and liters for

Couscous, beef, meatballs, roast chicken, fried fish, olive salad, matbucha, harissa

garlic, cilantro and cumin perfume.

It tastes so good

I buy the same ingredients

but when I make it at home it does not.

Part Two: Garden Treasure

My saba likes to grow things

 olive trees and pomegranates out back

The herb called flio he puts in his tea-

tastes like mint but not quite

Street cats come to sunbathe

they follow you around; friendly, hopeful

he feeds them too.