Monthly Archives: March 2008

Desperation?

Word of the day: Furnication—the act of sex with a piece of furniture. Eeewwww.  Hat tip to Central LS.

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Sales Shlock

Argue with the customer: One of the strangest aspects of Israeli culture is the lack of customer-oriented service.  Try on a pair of shoes and reject them as uncomfortable and hear, “But they are orthopedic!”  Ask for something that the sales clerk isn’t familiar with and get the response, “Ein davar kazeh (there’s no such thing).”  When they push something on you that you don’t want, no polite refusal works, as they demand to know why you don’t want it.  I’ve found that only making up the most absurd stories works.  “Oh, I won’t buy anything from company name.  They test their products on babies in China.”   (Of course, that can backfire when the clerk asks, “And why is that a problem?”)

Eat up, my dumpling:Nadine returns to her normal fitness program by gorging herself on pita and white cheese, and then retiring for a well-earned shluff under the fluffy blanky.  All is well.  When well-meaning knuckleheads lecture me on the dangers of feline obesity, I just shrug.  Miss Thing will be 14 in a few weeks (11 April, so mark your calendar), and her luscious dimensions have never interfered with her robust good health. 

Batsheva Bums Us Out

We should know better: Any performance that is advertised as mufah asure l’hachmitz!!! (yes, with three exclamation marks) is almost guaranteed to be a dud.  It is Batsheva, Israel’s prominent and world-acclaimed modern dance company, in a performance of macaroba k’visa (the one you see advertised all over with the guy wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and red patent leather stilettos).  In a nutshell:

  • The costumes, if you can call them that, are unattractive shmatahs that resembled over-washed underwear. 
  • The music is excruciating (loud, electronic, and monotonous).  I sat for the first 20 minutes with my fingers in my ears, waiting for a break so that I could fashion makeshift earplugs from Kleenex.
  • The choreography was certainly not fresh and original—it was boring, unattractive, and, well, boring. 
  • Even the dancing was not anywhere up to Batsheva’s normal standards, with all group choreography being slightly out.  From our seats in the third row, center, so we could really hear when someone landed a fraction of a beat behind the rest of the pack. Sloppy.

In a word, gack. Gill loves modern dance, and often enjoys performances that I don’t get at all, but in this case even he agrees with me. Fooya!  Save your money.

Catching Up

While I was gone:  My deranged loyal readers have been flooding my mailbox with spam crap interesting contributions to the blog.  Here are a few of the best:

  • Travel plans?  Here’s what not to do on the plane and here’s the guy you pray doesn’t sit next to you.  Hat tip to Wedgie and Northern LS.
  • Heading to Italy?  Cops in LambosHat tip to bat-out-of-hell-Karen.
  • Getting ready for Purim?  Here’s the most annoying Purim story rap yet.  Check out those Tel Aviv scenes.  Hat tip to several.
  • Tired of the usual Four Questions?  Get ready for Pesach with the manishtana in Klingon, perhaps?  Hat tip to my sister Tracy.
  • Tired of the same old seder meal?  Add shrooms.  Seems that Moses didHat tip to Northern LS.
  • Tired of the Eliot Spitzer scandal?  Try thisHat tip to Central LS.

Klutz-o-rama

Tel Aviv saga redux:  Wondering why I haven’t blogged for almost a week?  I’m still recovering from my misadventures in Tel Aviv.  Here’s a quick rundown of all those little stress triggers:

  • Plane delayed on Sunday when meeting Patrick.  He texts me, but to the wrong phone number, so I never get the messages.
  • Taxi from Shalom station to hotel almost gets into an accident. 
  • Try to walk to the area with all the beach-front cafes and discover that the whole place is torn up and one massive, ugly construction site (long-awaited light rail).
  • Wednesday, on bus from Arlozorov station to area with hotels, my suitcase falls over and whacks someone.  Luckily, she turns out to be a former student on her way to the seminar. 
  • That afternoon, I slip out around 3:30 and head over to the hotel to check in, leave my stuff, and head to another meeting.  The hotel has screwed up my registration.  Not only did they only have me down for one night, but they put me in a room that isn’t non-smoking.  It reeks.  I ask for another room and wait.
  • Meeting is a semi-bust, with only half the expected people showing up.
  • Taxi back from meeting features driver who doesn’t know Tel Aviv and turns the wrong way on Ben Yehuda.  We do a massive, unnecessary, and expensive loop.  Furious, I jump out when I get close.  It still costs me NIS 34 instead of an expected NIS 20.
  • Hotel shower-tub is so small that I whack my elbow.  Twice.  Large bruise.
  • Thursday AM we show up for day two of training and the projector (ours, not the hotels) plus a bag of workbooks have gone missing.  They are delivered at 9:05.
  • I get a call from my hotel.  “You are only supposed to be here for one night.”  No, two.  We argue.  I give them the reservation number again.
  • At 17:00 we wrap up training.  Happy campers all around.  I have to return the projector to our classroom.  Naty offers to run me over there.  Problem: the keys are back in my hotel room.  We walk from the Renaissance to where his car is parked (8 minutes), navigate to the Metropolitan (7 minutes), I run in and discover that my key doesn’t work, run back down, get a new key, run up, get my classroom keys, run down (8 minutes).  Then the fun starts.  In what could only happen in a Laurel & Hardy movie, Naty’s “helpful” talking GPS system gets us hopelessly lost. We know where we need to go—we just can’t get there from here.  Every time we go wrong, the polite voice tells us that she is calculating a new course, and we crack up. Tel Aviv is a maze of one-way streets, streets that have taxi-only lanes, streets that don’t connect, and other pitfalls. By the time we get to the classroom, it is well after 18:00. Over an hour has elapsed since we left the seminar hotel.
  • I thank Naty profusely for his efforts and send him on his way.  He still has a long drive north ahead of him.  I go through the long process of unlocking the classroom, dump the gear, and lock everything up again.  Then I grab a cab.  This guy is ma zeh telavivi and zips along through all the shortcuts. We discuss politics.  He thinks that we need a new strong leader in Egypt and then just hand him Gaza.  Suddenly, while zipping down one of the little shortcut side streets, we hit a police road block.  There may have been an accident or a hefetz hashud (suspicious object that requires the sapper unit), but for whatever the reason, we have to turn around.  My driver starts down a one-way street the wrong way, then backs up, and immediately gets rear-ended by another car backing up in the other direction.  He jumps out to assess the damage.  The meter is still running.  I toss some money at him and take off on foot. 
  • After a aerobic 2 km trot, I get back to our hotel, where I am supposed to link up with Patrick.  He’s not there.  I try calling, but his phone is set to block calls.
  • Patrick arrives just minutes later.  I give him three options for dinner, and he picks a near-by restaurant.  We have a lovely dinner but end up with mild food poisoning.
  • In my hotel room at 21:00.  The front desk calls.  “You only have a reservation for one night.”  Here we go again…
  • At 22:00 I am asleep.  At 22:30 I am wide awake after what sounds like a series of explosions outside.  Could have been the wind slamming windows, cars backfiring, fire crackers, or someone dropping a pile of dishes off the top of a ten storey building.  I don’t know.  Point is, I am wide awake and despite my physical exhaustion, I can’t fall asleep again.  I watch a program on National Geographic about dogs.  One segment features Donny, a truly genius Doberman. I’m fascinated.  (See more Donny stuff here.)
  • At around 1:00 (yes, that’s AM), I wake again from a light doze to discover that my room is completely filled with cigarette smoke.  It is as if someone has lobbed a smoke bomb.  The room next to me has an active smoker, and the ventilation system (or lack thereof) causes the smoke to be sucked into my room.  My room is tiny, as in can’t-swing-a-cat small.  The bathroom is so small that even the cockroaches are hunchbacked.  It is even smokier in there.  I open the window further and gut it out, knowing that if I ask to be moved, I only prolong the agony.  This hotel is not clear on the concept of “non-smoking room.”  I am reminded of the story that a friend of mine told me about trying to book a non-smoking room in Eilat.  “Nu?” said the hotel clerk, “You don’t have to smoke in the room if you don’t want to.”  The smoke attack corresponds nicely with some abdominal cramping and a bout of shilshul, compliments of the previously-mentioned food poisoning.
  • Friday morning I stop at the desk on the way to breakfast to ask about check-out time.  “You had a reservation for one night, but you were here for two.”  Oh, gevalt.  I show them the email and finally a manager comes out.  I find out later that they have called Larry three times during the last day.
  • I once again give Patrick a choice of things to do before we have to head to the airport.  He wants to try Shuk haCarmel, and so we brave what looks like an imminent storm and walk over.  On the way, we stop at a pet store and buy presents.  I get a red and white sweatsuit for Nadine, but she refuses to wear it.  (Turns out that she supports Maccabbee, not Po’el.) We have some disappointing knaffe and some outstanding fresh pomegranate juice.  On the walk back, we zigzag through the Neve Tzedek neighborhood.
  • Taxi from the hotel.  I get in tell him the train station.  “No, the airport!” he says.  Turns out that he is pre-booked by the hotel.  He has to cancel the order and do a new one.  The whole way he bitches and moans about why are we going to the train station, there will be traffic, we won’t save any money, yada yada yada.  I finally tell him to bypass the traffic and go to the University station, more to shut him up than anything else.  We get there and I discover that there is no train from the University station to Ben Gurion.  Poor Patrick must now backtrack to the Central (Arlozorov) station and change to a train to Ben Gurion. 
  • Before we have fully sorted this out, I here them calling my train.  Express trains to the north do not run that frequently, so if I miss this, I’ll have a long wait.  I give Patrick a hurried hug and run full tilt to my platform.  The train is there and about to pull out.  I leap on, catch the suitcase on the stairs, and fall back onto the platform.  I fall on my back and whack the back of my head plus manage to whack the front of my head with the handle of the suitcase. Soooo graceful.  Helping hands pull me to my feet and someone tosses the suitcase onto the train and pushes me in after it.  By the time we get to Akko, my head is throbbing, I am feeling stunned and disoriented, and I just want to take a hot shower and go to bed.
  • I get several text messages from Patrick. His laptop fell off the scanner during security and he is arguing with them about who is responsible. Finally, he says that all is well and he is ready to board his flight.

Is it any wonder that I was off-line for a few days?

For pin-heads only: Yet another bonus of the disgusting Metropolitan Hotel was the small stack of little (12 cm x 17.5 cm) plastic bags on the back of the toilet, the kind intended for disposal of sanitary napkins and such.
shower cap, you think?

Life in Tel Aviv

New office: My office gets the start of a much-needed face-lift with new aronot(cabinets). The old ones were literally falling apart.  New cabinets are sturdy and attractive, plus since they are custom made, they contain a special cosy sanctuary for Nadine.  Maybe this will get her to leave me alone while I’m on those long STC conference calls.

So it is an exhausting few days of taking everything out of the old units and breaking them apart, cleaning, sorting through things, and putting things back into the new stuff.   Back-breaking, dusty, dirty, and as bad as Pesach cleaning at its worst.  I actually logged 5 km inside the house just going up and down the stairs, hauling, shlepping, toting, cleaning, and sorting.  Only part-way done, but am looking forward to a slicker, more pleasant work area.  The aronot were made by a local business, Jason v’Salim Nagaria (Jason and Salim’s Carpentry), which is one of those great examples of quiet coexistence that you never seem to hear about.  They arrive exactly on time, do a perfect job, clean up after themselves, and are out the door fifteen minutes before their estimate.  One of the guys is particularly bemused by the custom hidy-hole for Nadine.  Miss Thing is still boycotting the new aron, but I hope to win her over to it this Shabbat

The Guru of Graphics: Patrick Hofmann is back with another series of training on graphical literacy for technical communicators.  Being somewhat graphically-challenged myself, I am in awe of his ability to express complex concepts with simple graphics.  The course continues tomorrow, so I am staying down in Tel Aviv and basking in the noise, chaos, and choice of restaurants.  We all think Patrick is terrific, and he continues to be impressed by the level of interaction.  Yes, it is true: Israeli TCs are smart, fast, and unabashedly geeky, and God knows that we aren’t afraid to ask questions and even (gasp!) argue.  A presenter used to training in the Far East might find it disconcerting, but Patrick seems to love it. 

The Political Animal

Where did all that stuff come from?  I’m groggy, achy, and slightly stunned.  Yesterday I spend the day dismantling my office to prepare for the new built-in storage.  I can’t believe the amount of stuff that was in the old unit.  It spills over into heaps and piles throughout the house. Nadine, as usual annoyed by any noise or fuss, hides under the covers.

A pig’s life: This little piggy went to a Dachshund…  Hat tip to Gilah.

Worse than a dog’s life: Cats treated like so much garbage in ChinaHat tip to Northern LS, who adds, “Never mind their abysmal human rights record…”

Monkey see, monkey do: Al-Jazeera apologizes for one of their talk show participants having an opinion.  Hat tip to Central LS.