Archives for June 2008

You can run, but you can’t hide

This morning we woke up somewhere near Harrisburg and had juice and coffee and got on the road. While my husband drove I began reading him Fannie Flagg’s book, “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven.” I had really enjoyed “Friend Green Tomatoes” and “Welcome to the World, Baby Girl,” having read parts of them to my husband out of sheer delight. I realized that with all of the driving, we might not find music we liked and I didn’t really want to invest in books on CD or carry CDs with us. As it is, we are weighted down with clothing and equipment. So this seems like a nice solution to “what are we going to do with all that time in the car.”

The weather was very spotty. We drove between sunny spots and absolute deluges. On at least three occasions the rainfall was so heavy we could barely see in front of us, and then a few miles later, there was the sun again.

We finally arrived in at place outside of Sandusky, Ohio. The motel is nice and has free wireless. I have even been able to download some of the daf yomi lessons that still weren’t available when we left Israel.

While my husband was studying, I drove to a shopping center and entered a Walmart-type store. I bought some salad vegetables for dinner as well as some sodas (that are exhorbitant on the road) and some other items we needed. As I reached the checkout counter, I heard the clerk, a young man with long wavy dark hair highlighted in red, telling the person in front of my how frightened he had been. When I started to check out, I asked him what had happened to make him frightened. He told me his story:

About a week ago, at about midnight, he was working in the store (which is open 24 hours.) A man walked over to him at the checkout counter carrying an AK47. The man asked him if they had any shells for the AK47 and did they do background checks. The clerk responded, “Are you $*&#ing kidding?” The man told him he was not. He just wanted to know if they had shells for his weapon and if they did background checks. The clerk called his supervisor. He said that there was a man with an AK47 asking those questions. His supervisor asked him if he was kidding. He said, “No.” The supervisor must have had the ability to see the clerk because she told him to stop looking around. It was not wise to get the customer upset. She told him to tell the customer that they were checking. In a short while, the supervisor called him back and told him to tell the man they were still checking, but in the meantime, he needed to see some ID. She told the clerk to try to memorize as much as he could of the ID. Finally she called back and told him to tell the customer that they couldn’t do it, but that another store (which he named) could. As the man left the store, the clerk saw his supervisor nod to someone and suddenly the police swooped in and tackled the customer.

The poor clerk was still upset. How could I tell him what his story awakened in me? Should I tell him that where I live many times people with weapons succeeded in hurting innocents? Should I tell him about our heroes who have sacrificed their lives when homicidal people attempted to hurt others? Or should I tell him about the time I walked into a Jerusalem supermarket with my son and they were very careful to search my purse but thought nothing of allowing my son in with his M16?

I acknowledged his feelings and aside from that, I said nothing.

Tomorrow, it’s on the road again.

Counting the cars on the… turnpike

Thanks for being so patient! Warning: this posting is not funny.

Friday we went back for felafel to the restaurant formerly known as “Mama’s.” That is: last week, it was known as “Mama’s” and this week it was open, serving the same food with the same man at the counter, and now called “Chickpeas.” The felafel still was very good.

We walked to the area of Independence Hall and went into the Liberty Bell’s new home. It actually was very nice with some relevant photos and narrative and the bell was still there (only about one half the size I remember it being.) I’m guessing it was my memory that was faulty since shrinking the bell might have been noticed by others.

We had been told that Constitution Center was worth seeing and it was. The exhibits were engaging and sometimes clever. The building itself was very attractive.

We bought some more food for shabbat and then went back to my sister’s apartment to prepare for shabbat.

In the evening, we went to a little synagogue, about 2 blocks from her house. In the morning, we walked one block farther away and found an old synagogue, Bnai Abraham, that was beautiful. It was a very large building and the synagogue was absolutely charming. It probably could seat about 300 people, maybe more and is freshly renovated and painted tastefully. It most reminded me of the synagogue we had visited in St. Petersburg, Russia or a couple we had seen in Prague. We were told that its builders had been immigrants from Russia. After the service (which was very nice) there was a lovely sit-down kiddush and the people were friendly and welcoming.

After a very restful and pleasant shabbat, we said goodbye to my sister and set off westward. Now we are at a motel just off the Pennsyvania Turnpike at about Harrisburg.

What a day!

We spent the day in Philadelphia with my sister after a brief skype visit with the family in the morning…

One of the places we went was Border’s where the selection of English language books was nothing less than spectacular!

But by far, the best part of the day was meeting our grandson for the first time. This fabulous child is ours by marriage (his father married my daughter) and although I had imagined he would be a nice child, I could never have pictured him as bright and clever and friendly and charming as he is. And now, since he calls me savta, I officially count him among my grandchildren.

Here we are together

We are excited that he will be visiting Israel in August and that we will get to spend more time with him then.

Newburgh-New Rochelle-Philadelphia

We ended our trip to Newburgh, saying goodbye to our friends, and went on in the direction of New Rochelle. We stopped at West Point where we found some things that we were looking for in the PX. One of them was a new camera. Although I really have enjoyed my digital camera, it is a couple of years old and it was time to upgrade. We got a really great camera that I have yet to take out of the box and figure out— we’ve just been moving too fast.

We went on to New Rochelle and met my friend Sandy at a restaurant for dinner. What can I say? Sandy is wonderful- warm and gracious and kind and caring. When we got to her home, we set up our show quickly as she prepared a feast for the guests. The people she had invited were delightful and they made the evening very special.

Over Sandy’s fireplace is the most exquisite picture of her five gorgeous grandchildren. It made me so happy to see what pleasure she derives from them.

After breakfast, Sandy packed us a lunch and of we drove to Philadelphia.

Once in Philadelphia, we went into tourist mode, meeting my sister for a picnic lunch and ultimately riding the duck. What a hoot! (Actually, what a quack!) We had a great time riding through the streets of the city listening to really bad duck puns and finally splashing into the Delaware River! What an adventure! We all were given plastic duck bills that make a quacking sound when you blow into them. We all participated in a quacking symphony as we quacked to the chicken song and then to the Blue Danube Waltz. We really enjoy being tourists and the duck ride was just what we needed after days of being serious adults.

Tomorrow, we stay in Philadelphia and continue being tourists. I will try very hard not to quack too much.

and the beat goes on

This morning we woke up in Philadelphia, played a bit with Roxy the cat, and proceeded onward in the direction of Newburgh, NY. We enjoyed driving up the Jersey Turnpike, a road that carried for us a number of associated memories.

We stopped in Montvale, New Jersey and bought some food for lunch and for dinner. Then we drove on in the direction of Newburgh, NY.

We even remembered our way to our friend, Gail’s home! It was wonderful to see her and her husband and her daughter once again. Gail arranged our talk here in Newburgh and it’s hard to even explain how special she is as a person and as a friend. All I can say is that she is the absolute best!

The meeting we spoke at was very nice. We enjoyed seeing some of the people we knew when Aaron lived here (I never actually lived in Newburgh.) Unfortunately we had an equipment failure (no, not a wardrobe malfunction, an equipment failure.

In order to use our computer (that had a round European plug) in the US along with the projector we purchased here (that has flat US plug) we brought along an Israeli/European extension cord along with an adapter so that it would fit into a US socket as well as an adapter for the US purchased projector so that it would fit into our Israeli/European extension cord. (Have I lost you yet? No? I thought by now no one would follow me)….

Anyway, apparently the adapter that had been at the end of the Israeli/European extension cord got left in Philadelphia, thereby making the extended operation of the computer problematic. So out my husband went to get us a replacement at the Radio Shack. Fortunately, they had just what he needed and so the evening went off just fine.

All’s well that ends well. Now the people in Newburgh too can hardly wait to join us on a vacation to China!!!

(At least that’s what I am hoping.)

Back to Philly

After a lovely breakfast with my cousin, we got into the car and headed toward Philadelphia. My sister, Vicki, was waiting. It was good to see her. We walked to a nearby restaurant and had felafel and then we had a couple of hours to kill before we were to meet with my cousins.

My sister suggested a trip to IKEA (yes, J&K, IKEA). I was really surprised. It was a totally different store from the one in Israel. Totally. Well, of course the first thing I noticed were some no-no’s on the menu at the restaurant, but it was so much more. It was IKEA a l’Americain. It looked nothing like the IKEA we all know and love in Israel. It was very full of merchandise everywhere and there were items that were very American– stuff I had never seen in Israel- fabrics, dark wood furniture, panels to hang on walls. So strange.

For my sister, I am guessing that it was a surreal experience. She is still reeling from her friend’s death, yet with no shiva to attend, she is cut loose back to life and IKEA after having spent a torturous six months watching her friend become sicker and sicker.

I have learned some things about my sister.
1. She is very loyal. Even when things were terrible, she stuck with her friend– even when she broke her leg and was supposed to be home caring for herself.
2. She is unselfish. See above.
3. She is resilient. Now, when she could, and has every right to dissolve into [temporary] dependence, she didn’t. Despite it all, she is a kind and gracious hostess.

Tonight we met with our cousins and Lori brought along two treasures: a book of old family photographs (of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents) and her daughter- a bright sunny little girl she adopted from China. Ada (my father’s sister’s daughter) and her husband joined us and it was wonderful to see them again. Bruce (Lori’s brother) was also with us. The restaurant was miraculously empty and we had a couple of hours to ourselves in a gigantic living room– and so what else to do but show pictures of China, pictures of the grandchildren, a short video of Yaakov juggling and another of Sam singing.

It was a lovely evening. And now if I can just keep earthlink feather-something from hijacking my computer…. (I’m using my sister’s for this)

Tomorrow- On to Newburgh

More Baltimore

Friday was a lovely day of relaxing and talking with my cousin. My husband and I went for lunch to a place that had bagels with real whitefish salad. You see, we have not really found whitefish salad in Israel, so instead, I buy smoked mackerel and my husband flakes it and mixes it with mayonnaise and it serves as a perfect substitute if you pretty much have forgotten what real whitefish salad tastes like.

My cousins invited friends to dinner and it was a delicious, pleasant, meal.

Shabbat morning we walked to a synagogue that was at a distance since my cousin wanted wto be with friends who were having a kiddush in honor of a happy occasion. It was sunny and bright and warm. The walk was pleasant because of the company and because of all of the beautiful homes we passed on the way.

My cousin and her husband are generous and kind people and staying with them was delightful.

Although it was the longest shabbat of the year, it passed all too quickly and this morning, we find ourselves packing and getting ready for the next part of the adventure.

If it’s Thursday, this must be Baltimore

We woke up early in the morning Thursday, a benefit of still adjusting to US time. We gathered our things in preparation to leave for Baltimore. In addition to the normal things people bring on trips (clothing, toiletries, etc.) we are traveling with a number of electronic devices. As a result, the number of cables and connectors and electrical appurtenances is ridiculous. We have the computer, the projector, the digital camera, my iPod, my husband’s MP3, and the cell phone… all of which seem to connect and interconnect. In order to solve the “ohmigosh, there could never be enough outlets in the motel room” problem as well as the “we’re going to have to bring along 50 plug adapters” problem, we brought along an Israeli power strip (known in Israel as a bathtub) and one plug adapter.

But I digress.

The ride to Baltimore was very pleasant.

When we arrived, my cousin was actually even prettier, sweeter and more lovable than I had remembered. Funny thing about DNA. It’s strong stuff.

We presented our show to an audience for the first time in the media room of friends of my cousin and her husband. We had fun doing it and I think they enjoyed it too. I think they will enjoy the gifts we brought for them.

By the time we left, it was late, but we ended the evening with dinner and fell into bed exhausted.

The beat goes on

We rose early. Very early. Like 3:30 a.m. early. Which is 10:30 a.m. in Israel.

It gave me time to blog and then at 6:30 or so, we went to the little tea room where there was coffee and tea and fresh orange juice and even packaged blueberry muffins with a good kosher imprimatur. We decided to go to Fort Dix to update our military ID cards. The amazing thing is that neither of us could remember in detail how to get there. We missed a left turn but weren’t sure, so we stopped to ask. I walked into the only entrance of a two story building. There were only steps to the upstairs. I walked quietly upstairs and came into a room filled with desks and computers and a humming fax machine and as I walked down the corridor, I saw more offices, a coffee break room, a huge copy machine (also humming)… everything but people. There was not one person in the building. (At least I couldn’t find any.) So I conclude from that that the US military (nearby, remember) has devised a weapon that can render an office personless. Of course years ago, the Israel government bureaucracy had devised a weapon that can create the personless feeling in an office even when there are workers.

So we turned the car around and proceeded in the direction of Fort Dix. There was a brand new entrance that said “Welcome to Fort Dix.” The MP at the entrance said to us, “Turn around your car and go out of the gate and go to the visitors’ center where they will make you an ID card.”

So we turned around, parked, signed in, and sat in what I now remember as MSA (Military Suspended Animation). We waited over 1.5 hours while they served approximately 4 people, all the while watching a TV tuned to a channel with discussions on fabulously interesting subjects such as whether New Jersey needs to amalgamate some of its x number of small towns. We did finally get the ID cards, but found out in the process that our home at Fort Dix which carried some happy memories, had been demolished.

But there was no time to visit in any case, because we had told my sister that we would be in Philadelphia by noon.

Although we had no way of knowing in advance, we arrived in the States at precisely the right time to accompany my sister to her companion’s funeral. He had had ALS and she had been at his side throughout it all. My sister and he had enjoyed going to the theater and opera and museums together. They traveled together sometimes. His family was warm and accepting and they value her. And it was sad.

Our dear cousin Lori (the third sister) was at the funeral. She was, as always warm and kind and bubbly and full of enthusiasm. She is very lovable and it was nice to be with her. We will see her again next Sunday.

After the funeral, the family (including my sister) went out to eat and we went hunting for a kosher restaurant. We found a place that was fine foodwise, but don’t expect to see it on Martha Stewart’s better living…

Afterwards, we picked up my sister from the other restaurant and we all came home, exhausted.

Today, we go on to Baltimore.

The adventure begins

** Updated to include pictures

Very early in the morning we awoke and took our suitcases outside. The taxi arrived within a few seconds and off we wert to Ben Gurion Airport. In all of our travels, we have never had the check-in and security checks go so easily. When we took off for Crete at about the same time of early morning only three weeks earlier, the process was much less pleasant.

Swiss, which code-shares with El Al, had intended to send a large jet to fly us to Zurich, but there was an equipment problem, so instead they sent two smaller planes and we were lucky enough to get three seats for the two of us meaning that we had both a window seat and an aisle seat. While waiting in line to board, we found our daughter-in-law’s father who was flying back to Los Angeles via Zurich. We said goodbye to him in Zurich’s huge airport.

We boarded an American Airlines plane and had an eight hour flight to the States. Uncharacteristically, I sat by the window (it was a plane that was configured 2/3/2- so we once again had a window seat and an aisle seat). For most of the flight when I wasn’t sleeping, the view was wing and cloud, but when we finally were over land in the US, I couldn’t believe the richness of the landscape. It was so very green and lush. The homes were scattered through the countryside and there was water, rivers running everywhere and little lakes. At home, in Israel, the default color of the landscape in summer is tan. Without irrigation, there are only weeds, cacti, olive trees, and dirt. Every garden must be irrigated or the plants and bushes and trees will die during our long rainless season that lasts roughly May through October. But here, the default was green.

And I looked at the roads beneath me. There were what seemed like dozens of roads that were four lanes wide with cloverleafed interchanges. I thought of our one limited access road that makes us proud, Route 6 that already has cut travel time to the north by hours and will eventually go from Beer Sheva (in the south) to the north, parting in the north with one road going toward the coast and the other toward Safed and the Golan.

When we landed, we went through immigration with no problem. While waiting for the luggage to appear, I sat next to a pretty young woman. She was on the next to the last page of a Danielle Steele novel. I told my husband , “She’s going to be disappointed; they always just end.” A couple of minutes later, she took the book and threw it in the wastebasket (it was a very used paper back that was on its last… pages). She said, “Oh well!” I said, “Yes, I know.” She is Australian and lives in the US. She is a singer who sings her own music and she was returning from appearances in Europe. She was very delightful and as we talked, she told me that she often spends time in Israel as her parents own an apartment there. I gave her my card and invited her to stop by. She smiled and we parted friends.

My hard sided suitcase that I bought inexpensively in Beijing and that cracked by the end of its first journey, ended this flight no worse for the wear. The crack had not extended and the lock had not popped open. It was a good day!

I last was at Kennedy Airport in 1999 and the changes were enormous, most notably the “sky train” that transported us free of charge to the car rental place. Although very slow, the car rental agency gave us no problems with the reservation we had pre-paid in Israel and very quickly we were on our way.

We parked at the Port Authority Terminal and walked just a few blocks to B&H Electronics (9th Avenue, not far from 34th Street) where we bought a projector for our computer. Ohmigosh. This place has to be the best organized store I have ever seen. They have a huge selection of everything! Inside there were tens of customers. However, they have what seemed like tens of people to help explain the features of the equipment and help us compare brands and models. They were able to have the item in their hands within a minute of our saying “yes” and when we went to check out, there were perhaps 10 counters for those paying by credit card and another 6 for those paying in cash– and no waiting. Then we took our receipts to the next counter and with no waiting, we walked out of the store. From start to finish, it wasn’t a 5 minute process!

We then went to buy a pay-as-you-go telephone. No so easy. Everywhere we stopped, they were asking outrageous prices and the networks that some of the phones worked on sounded as if they were local home networks. At a pharmacy that sold a cheap pay-as-you-go (if you think $60 without any air minutes is cheap), the salesperson was warm and helpful and told us there was an AT&T store down the block.

When we got there, we discovered that we could buy a sim card for my phone that was a pay-as-you-go sim card. I worried that it might not be compatible in some way. I knew that my phone was “unlocked” since I had paid for it to be unlocked and have successfully used it in China. So, we paid the $50 for the sim card, taking the gamble that it would work (they can’t be returned- even if they are found to not work while still in the store.) The clerk, who was cute as a button and named Rosy and lived in New York, had never heard of the album/DVD “Really Rosie” (Maurice Sendak & Carole King). She didn’t know how much air time came with the sim card, but knew it would cost us $1 a day on every day that we used it and $.10 a minute.

Success! It worked. And after a long call to our friends (who we hadn’t seen for many many years) to arrange to meet, the phone said that we still had $48+ credit.

In order to meet our friends, we had to travel by subway up to 72nd street. Although all our luggage was in the car, we were still lugging with us the computer (lightweight computer, heavyweight case) and now had the projector (although lightweight, still packed in the box with all of its accessories) and a cradle with speakers for my iPod that we had purchased too. We were wearing our magical vests (the ones we wear as tour guides that allow us to carry: tickets, passports, as many different currencies as we need, tissues, toothpicks, a small camera, a birkat hamazon card, packaged handwash tissues, an extra cloth bag for carrying, a couple of pens and notepads, a laser pointer, and of course, our Shai Bar Ilan business cards. In short, we were walking suitcases.

When we got down into the subway, everything was automated. Did I mention that I was feeling very much like a stranger in a strange land? No. Well, I was. So we looked at the machine and tried to figure out how to buy just 4 rides when suddenly this very tall, very dark man said to us, “you’d best wait in line.” We self-consciously told him that we were foreigners– which of course was a stretch for him to believe since we actually speak English like natives. But he did. He also helped us figure out that we could buy 4 rides for $7 which seemed like a good deal for us as we didn’t plan to be back in Manhattan anytime soon.

The Starbucks at 72nd street and Broadway may have excellent coffee (I had a low cal iced vanilla latte that was respectable) but their wireless network was also a signalless network! How frustrating!

Our friends walked in and it was really really good to see them. Although we have not been in close touch over the years, we feel very close to them. She and I grew up together– but also her aunt and her mother had been friends with my mother when they were still in school. In 1970, when I was pregnant with our third child, and we were concerned with who would raise the children if we weren’t around to do it, we chose them and they agreed. We were exceedingly happy to hear that their children are all doing well and living good lives. We hope we will see more of them as time goes by and he retires. It was a very special treat to see them!

It then being about eight o’clock (and still light out!!!) we walked on 72nd street and found a kosher restaurant and had delicious sandwiches. We took the subway to the car and soon were crossing over to New Jersey.

By the time we got to the Molly Pitcher rest stop, we were tired and looked at the tourist map to see if there was information about lodging nearby. While there, a man said to us, “there’s a Motel 6 at exit 4.” As we got into conversation with him, we found that he spends most of us time doing acts of kindness, primarily visiting the sick. He takes kosher food to them in hospitals (he offered us pizza that he had in his truck, but we had just had meat sandwiches a couple of hours before.) He told us about children and adults who come to Philadelphia (where he lives a couple of blocks away from my sister) for medical procedures and who are in need of kindness and support. He told us to get in touch with him tomorrow because he’d like to introduce us to someone who might be very interested in our tours and might even get a group together. Counting the woman I spoke with on the subway, we handed out at least three business cards today to people who were interested in taking them (the stuffing them into strangers’ pockets thing never really appealed to me 🙂

We found a motel that had a coupon in a booklet for travelers. It was about half the price of the others and since all we wanted was to sleep, we went and checked in. The humorless man at the desk, who didn’t crack a smile the entire time we spoke to him, not even when we recognized (or thought we did) the pictures of Buddhist monks on the wall (he said, “no. I am Hindu.) told us that we would have to sleep in the same [king sized] bed since that’s what the ad was for. I DIDN’T say to my husband (although I really really really wanted to) “That’s gonna make your wife very unhappy.” He wouldn’t have understood.

The room is at ground level (which is good in terms of carrying in the luggage) in more ways than one. But we are comfortable and safe and can’t wait to see what new adventures we will be having tomorrow.