Saturday, August 27, 2011

After THIS Storm

Hurricane Irene is coming to town. The thing is, I'm not terribly scared, nor am I not scared. You see, I've been through hurricanes before, and thus, I have a slight edge over many of my fellow New Yorkers. I know for example, that masking tape "x"s don't keep windows from shattering, and that storm windows in 100 mile per hour winds are actually no better than any others, just as I know that this isn't Armageddon, and a wall of water 30 stories high isn't about to sweep through Manhattan with biblical consequences. Then again, maybe it will. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not bemoaning my lack of an ark or collecting cooperative pigeons, but something about a storm of this magnitude actually fills me with something that just might pass for hope, (at least,if you don't look too hard).
It's been a terrible year; every time we turn on the news, some extremist somewhere is doing his or her damnedest to make life impossible for you and me, and corporations are strangling democracy to within a milimeter of its existence. Religious fanatics are citing recent earthquakes and economic turmoil as sure signs that "the beast" is afoot, and with a well intentioned but wishy washy Democratic incumbent going up against the likes of either Romney, Bachman or Palin, 2012 isn't looking so promising either.
Nevertheless, something about this hurricane business makes me smile a little bit. In about 20 minutes, our windows will rattle threateningly, our power may go out and we will be reduced to cold canned kidney beans for breakfast, but come Monday, the sun will rise. People will walk out their front doors, and having communally survived another near catastrophe, will actually say "excuse me" as they walk into me, their eyes glued to their iPhones. The news stand guy will smile as he refuses to look to see if he still has a copy of last weekend's Haaretz, and people will graciously acknowledge that I was at the bus stop before them, even as they elbow their way past me onto the 86 St. crosstown. For 5 minutes, New York will be glad the world is still here. At least until the next big scare.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


So, we’re sitting on the couch reading the weekend paper, and I say to Cleo, “There’s this new picture at The Quad that sounded good.. Directed by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, it’s called “Paradise, Nu?”

Robert Eger says, “It stars Mike Burstyn of Kuni Lemel fame, and Gene Wilder as two madcap would be suicide bombers who do their best to cross borders and blend in as Haredim. Hilarity ensues as Mahmoud (played by Wilder) tries to buy a shtreimel from a shop in Mea She’arim, but the shop owner speaks neither Hebrew, nor Arabic, forcing Mahmoud to communicate in a combination of charades, and something approximating "pig" Yiddish, meanwhile, Omar (Burstyn) just wants a lafa, but the Falafel shop in Ben Yehuda is crawling with border police on their lunch. Will he risk the mission for a sandwich? Will Mahmoud get his hat? Will the two ever make it to Paradise? Two thumbs up.. this movie is the bomb!”

“I'm not sure,” says Cleo, “it kinda feels like it’s been done before.

Haredim - ultra-orthodox Jews

shtreimel - a hat made of a fox's tail wound around the head, typically worn by Satmar and Netureikarta chasidim

Mea She'arim - "Hundred Gates", an ultra orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem

lafa - Iraqui pita, larger than Israeli pita, with no "pocket". Used as a wrap, rather than being stuffed.

Ben Yehuda - A pedestrian mall in the center of Jerusalem

Monday, August 15, 2011


The tension is growing between the lovers, you can feel it coming in the peace between them. But maybe you're wrong this time. Maybe, Amir and Noa will work it all out, get married, have a kid, buy a dog and a house outside the city where possibilities sprout from between the squares of pregrown grass that make up the front lawn.. it's possible, you tell yourself, but then again, if everything was grand in the end, if Amir got his tenure at the university, if Noa finished her book, if their son Gidi didn't grow up and get shot in Lebanon, if they lived long and contented lives, free from tension and tragedy, would you in fact, be sitting by the window, your legs curled under you, holding this book?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


How much is say, a container of the best soup in the world worth to you? Say you’re sick, and the best soup in the world is across town, in a little hole in the wall called Mogadishu CafĂ©. Say you have a fever, and the only thing in the world that would make you feel better, is this soup. Now, say your roommate, who’s this quiet Indian guy who the Foreign Student Union set you up to live with, would have to race if he left right now, just to catch the cross town bus to get to this place before it closes for the weekend, and say the owner is willing to wait an extra 15 minutes, but no more, because he had a good day. Now, say your roommate races out the front door, and it’s starting to rain, but neither of you has an umbrella worth its salt. Your roommate get’s soaked, and you promise to yourself, you’ll make it up to him. You’ll set him up with the cute blonde on three who laughs at your jokes in the laundry room, the one you were hoping to score with yourself. You’ll do his laundry for the next three weeks. That seems fair. Maybe you’ll finally clean the apartment, top to bottom like he’s been asking you to do for months now.

How much did you say that container of soup was worth to you? Say that, while running for the crosstown bus, his glasses blurry with rain, your roommate doesn’t look and darts out into 72nd St, hopelessly as the bus pulls away from the curb?

Even if it was a semi-trailer that hit him, and they said it was instantaneous, was the soup worth what you’ll carry the rest of your life?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Writing

Herbs and spices
dry in jars on my shelf.
One day,
maybe even in many years,
they're going to make
a tasty soup.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Here is the Road

Here is the road
on whose center I walk:
On one side the flowers
are heavy, and sweet,
and hanging from a cactus,
a sabra, ripe and tempting.
On the other,
glass and steel, and
Guo's Garden, whose
kung pao sets your
tongue on fire.
The road is wide,
the sides far apart,
and the sabra after all,
is growing behind a fence,
But look at the red sky,
the Friday sun is setting;
will it be omelettes in front of the
T.V. on the couch,
or will we
sit together at the table,
eating slowly, playing sheshbesh
This road we walk is
a balancing act.
We take from what's familiar,
arrange it as best we can;
the narghila sits in the corner
and Keret and Kishon debate
"HaMatzav" on our dusty shelf.
just for this week,
we'll put off clearing the table,
instead, take out the bag of menus,
and hold hands on the couch.

Sabra - A cactus pear
Sheshbesh - Backgammon
Narghila - a water pipe, also known as a hookah
Keret and Kishon - Etgar Keret and Efraim Kishon, two well known Hebrew writers who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum
HaMatzav - Literally, "The Situation"

Friday, August 05, 2011

Erev Shabbat

One Friday night, God, who's real name is Chaim, just happens to look down from heaven, and as he does, he happens to look at Tel Aviv.
He sees people dancing at The Fifth Dimension, people smoking on the beach, riding scooters, etc. His mother puts her hand on his shoulder, and says “Chaimka, you have to do something about this.. It’s not kosher! They’re making a freyer out of you, can’t you see? Yallah, send another flood.”
God smiles at his mom, says, “Dai ima, it’s how Israelis are.. stam.. nudnikim. They do things to annoy, it’s just how they show affection.”
"Oof," says God's mother, shaking her head, "come eat. Your soup is getting cold."

The Fifth Dimension-a club
freyer-someone who gets walked all over, a fool
Dai-Enough, stop
stam-it's nothing

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

there are

There are poems
and there are stories,
that are made of a single word.
Words like home,
or immigrant,
or exile.

There are poems to whom if
you add a single thing⎯
they'll disintegrate,
or explode
leaving nothing behind,
but ever increasing

Monday, August 01, 2011


So I get off the M15 Select Bus at 79th St, and see this woman running madly for the bus as it's pulling away from the curb. Feeling bad, I offer her my receipt so that she doesn't have to pay. She declines, explains that she has an unlimited Metrocard, and says "I'm surprised, I would have thought you'd be more aggressive about it."
I have no idea what she's talking about, until I look down, and remember I'm wearing a blue t-shirt with the collar torn out, and printed with (in large, white Hebrew letters,) "ETZEL ITZIK- MAKOM HAMIFGASH HA'ISRAELI - MIAMI". I think, "Even when you try to do something nice... damn, I hate bad stereotypes."