Thursday, December 20, 2018

12/11/2018: Arrival

The shared shuttle -- or sherut--we took from Ben Gurion airport to Jerusalem, was quite a trip. 

There was the very frum (religious) couple who came in and insisted the man could only sit next to a man, and the woman needed the front seat.  They got off at Telz-stone.  Rose started talking to a young man from Turkey in for a Poli Sci conference, and the lady next to Rose was an Israeli whose parents had resettled to Berlin.  Much animated conversation ensued.

There was a couple from Belgium who lived a block or two from where Rose and ALhad lived.  Rose talked with them about a nearby bakery that AL particularly missed.

Then there was a man delivering a ladder to a friend from Sweden.  Rose and he chatted amiably enough until he started talking about egalitarian Jewish congregations.  They weren't according to the law of Moses. Women had an important place as Jews, but not at services.  Women participating in services were a balagan -- turmoil, commotion, disaster, chaos.  They're Christian, not Jewish.  He thinks the Women at theWall are disgusting.

Israel: 12/12/2018

Traveling business class was lovely.  The Philadelphia bus class lounge had custom guacamole, mixed to your specifications by a lady from Ethiopia (Rose talked to her, and of course learned her life’s story) + free wine + many other assorted snacks.  Business class itself had assiduous service (the bus class section was 1/2 empty) + good food + unlimited wine (of course).  Then, in Frankfurt, Rose qualified for the first class lounge by virtue of her gold card & I could be her guest, so we had a second breakfast in opulent surroundings.

Once we got to the Hotel Dan, the room we were given had a large double bed, when Rose had requested that the bed be split into two singles.  Rose asked when we arrived; when we got back from dinner, it hadn’t been done, so the front desk proposed we move to a different room, which had the split bed, but not the Old City view which we’d paid for (and it was smaller).  We were finally given a room that didn’t look out on the parking lot & was larger, but not as high up....

The breakfast is abundant — many varieties of cottage cheese and cream cheese, fish, salad, many fruits, many pastries (croissants & babkas) & halvah.  I ate too much, of course.
Continuing the room saga, Rose wrote a long letter to the manager outlining our plight w/ the rooms, and we were given a 5th floor room w/ the proper view and separated beds (and fruit and a cake).  And a free dinner tomorrow.  It has a nice view of Mt. Scopus, and we’re happy.

We went to the Israel National Mus this morning w/ Karen (the owner of the cockatiel), and saw illuminated manuscripts of Maimonides (impossibly small Hebrew script) and the Aleppo Codex & Dead Sea Scrolls.  The Aleppo Codex was the most impressive — it’s a 10th century book that recorded the vowels in the Tanach (Bible), as the Masorites had passed down by oral tradition.  (Now that I think of it, I’m not sure the trope marks, which are the punctuation, were included).

Then Karen drove Rose & me back to the hotel & went off to swim — she swims 2 hours/day.

Rose & I had lunch & then set off for the Old City — we went to the Kotel (the remains of the 2nd Temple), where I read Psalm 24 in Hebrew, and then the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (I’m not spelling that right), which is managed by 3 denominations of monks:  Franciscan, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Orthodox, who sometimes come to blows.  There’s a hilarious NYT article (4/6/2016) on attempts to renovate the shrine around the tomb.

Then we stopped at a sweet shop and had kunafe, a Nablus sweet of goat cheese sprinkled w/ semolina.  Then we took the light rail to a place for falafel.  I came back to the room, thinking my day was done, and Rose (who has more energy than me) went off to explore a nearby supermarket.

I was sitting writing this, when I got a phone call from Doris, a friend of Rose’s, who thought she was meeting us for dinner.  I scurried down to apologize — and we talked (she’s a retired conservator at the National Archieves).  Rose, back from the supermarket and investigating bus routes, etc. heard us, and came down, and we set off for supper (2nd supper for me; Rose had had 1/2 falafel & I’d had a whole one).

We had to wait a while for a table, so we wandered down the street window shopping.  There was a lovely store selling really unusual Armenian ceramics, but I managed not to buy anything (I keep thinking of how much we’ll have to jettison when we move to a 1,000 sf apt).  Aren’t you proud of me?

We talked about children, the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Mus, medical stuff, Rabbi Gerber’s YK sermon about his weight problems, Drs’ prejudices against overweight people, and then Doris drove us back.

Rose says I snore, intermittently.  

Israel 12/13/2018: Yad Vashem

We didn’t get to sleep until 1:30 or so last night, and got up maybe 7:30, which wasn’t enough sleep for me.  After an ample breakfast, including poached salmon, we set off for Yad Vashem, which is over in West Jerusalem.  It’s pretty overwhelming — we were there from maybe 10:30 - 2.  

You zig-zag back and forth, from one side of a prism to the other, in more or less chronological order.  There are many videos of survivors, telling their stories.  One woman was among those to be shot, falling into a pit of dead bodies — but she lived; she was 7.  Another boy dropped through the floor of the cattle car carrying him to the camps.  Another boy, in a ghetto; in the daytime, they prayed to live to see the stars at night; at night; they prayed to see the sunrise.  (Which is reminiscent of a passage out of the Torah of being cursed — in the daytime, you will long for evening, in the evening, you will long for morning).  Boys in a camp, reciting passages from the Haggadah about being free from slavery.  A boy who came home to his house, and his family was all shot dead — their bodies naked and swollen.

All interspersed with maps and figures and data sheets from Hitler’s minions.  And, of course, when Hitler was defeated, it’s not like there was someplace for the survivors to return to; the massacres in Poland of survivors after the war.  And the hidden children, who didn’t see much good about being Jewish.

It was all pretty harrowing.  I got separated from Rose maybe midway through the exhibit.  When you’re done w/ the exhibit, you emerge into a courtyard, then there’s a courtyard, where I just sat for a while, not sure if Rose was ahead of me or behind.  There was a bookstore, but I didn’t feel like buying anything.  Then there was a “Hall of Remembrance”.    Finally I walked back to the entrance-building, and found Rose.  We’d run through our shekels by then, but she dug up enough for me to buy a sandwich, and then we waited for the shuttle bus to take us to the light rail to take us into the Old City, where she had errands to run — to a gift store that sold crafts by the elderly, and to a scribal store, to buy a mezuzah scroll for a friend.  Also, we needed an ATM.  I was pretty tired and footsore by then (it was maybe 4:30), and got some money at a store’s ATM (but I think it gave me 240, not 400 shekels), and took a taxi  back to the hotel, where I lay down, had a cup of tea, listened to NPR news.  Rose headed for the market and more adventures.

Israel: 12/16/2018 Beit She'an & Hamat-Gader


This morning at the breakfast buffet,  a slight man of moderate height was heaping tomato-cucumber-pepper salad onto his plate — essentially taking the whole largish bowl, and then topping it off with tahini dressing.  He saw me looking wistful and said “they’ll bring more”.  His table was loaded with food — Rose thought for 4 people, but in fact he ate through it all.

We were using Google Maps on my cell phone to navigate — Wayz was only in Hebrew as far as I could figure out — but I hadn’t brought the charging cord, which I should have.

We head north toward the Sea of Galilee, to Beit She’an, ruins of a Roman city named Scythopolis — v impressive amphitheater and main way lined with columns.  A young woman clad in what from a distance looked like a wedding gown was modeling, we thought a local bride, but the gown was essentially split down the front (she had sequined underpants on) so I guess it wasn’t a bride.

From there, we went to Ein Ged, a kibbutz with a restaurant that sells fried fish—we each ordered one — you get a whole fish, head and all, slashed down the side and fried (the amount of fish is less than it looks, once you deal with the bones).  Rose was much more thorough and methodical than me.  

From there, we went to Hamat-Gader, which has hot springs (there were Roman baths there), but by then it was about 3:00 PM, and it’s getting dark by 4:30.  There are crocodiles, and a bird show, and picnic facilities (the website prohibits “gazelles” and barbecuing, but Rose opined they must have meant gazoils).  The water felt good, but had a very strong sulphuric smell that I didn’t like, and besides, my passport and wallet etc were in a bag on a chair by the water, so I got out and read while Rose steamed.

Many Arab families — the women wore bathing dresses that covered them, and covered their heads.

Hamat-Gader is almost in Jordan/Syria — there was a sign along the road saying leaving the road put you in mortal danger (because of mines)— the road is very winding, so I was glad when we were on a more main road.  We navigated back using my cell-phone, whose juice was running out, but it got us back to familiar ground in Tel Aviv.  We drove on to Jaffa, eventually parked, and got a large cheese-and-tomato filled triangular pastry for supper, and made our way back.

Did I say all the rooms have art work?  Here’s what’s on the walls of ours.

Quite something, isn’t it?

Israel: 12/17/2018: Ceasarea

The hotel WiFi doesn’t seem to work to send emails, but if I set up a hotspot from my phone, the emails on my iPad send ok.

Rose & I set off for Caesaria today, about 45 min north along the coastal highway. I think I said I’m not a great navigator, sometimes getting Rose onto a left turn lane one turn too early.  

The Ralli museums at Caesaria were interesting — by a prosperous Sephardi Jew — one was part Latin Am painters, with a Magritte lithograph exhibit thrown in and some Salvador Dali upstairs.  The second picture below is a Salvador Dali Elephant

And some archaeol from Caesaria.  The second was in honor of Sephardic Jews — lesser paintings on biblical themes, with a big statuary courtyard.  The museums were the result of some kind of family feud about money.

We went to the Caesaria ruins themselves after lunch, left a bit before 4.  Did you know that the French king Louis IX built part of the walls of the crusader castle with his own hands??  

Rose wanted to shop at a grocery store for gifts to take home, so we found one.  Then, we had trouble finding our way back to the main highway.  (It was dark by then).  

Twice, we were directed by Google Maps to a circle where the only choice that fit the directions was an “Agricultural path”.  (We had to return the car before the rental place closed at 6, and it was after 5).  Rose discerned a sign in Hebrew that alleged the “Agricultural Path” went to Tel Aviv, through the fields (b’sadot).  OK, so she turned onto the track across the fields.  It took us to near the highway barrier, but then all we could do was turn in the opposite direction from the instructions.  It took us around the back of a gas station, and there was an entrance to the highway from the gas station.  So Rose hurried down the highway, with me directing as best I could from my phone (which wasn’t very well).  And Google Maps wasn’t great — the voice couldn’t pronounce the Hebrew names, and at one point it told us to do a U turn in the middle of the divided highway (we didn’t; it straightened itself out). We got to the Hertz rental shop with maybe 9 min to spare.


We scurried back to the hotel, I drank 2 glasses of wine at the free happy hour and Rose drank 1.  The man at the next table, who seemed lonely, was a mechanical engineer from somewhere in the US heartland,  traveling in the Holy Land & deciding whether to convert to Judaism — his wife of 20 years was threatening to divorce him if he did.  He was headed to Hebron next; Rose admonished him to be careful.  A roommate of AL’s from Dartmouth came to meet us for dinner — we went to a Dhosa place nearish to the hotel.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Marta: 1/21/2018

Aaron and Alex's wedding: 1/6/2018

1/7/2018:  Thursday was the day of the "bomb cyclone", whose name naturally left me apprehensive.  We got up at 5, dressed & got ready, I dragged my huge heavy suitcase down the stairs and over to the side door, received messages that our 11:10 AM flight would leave at 12.  I went out and shoveled away the maybe 3" of snow on the walks & driveway (cold and windy) and brushed off the cars, feeling, I must say, v sorry for myself & put upon.

Streets mostly not plowed, so driving to the parking lot was kind of fraught (S used to drive better in snow than me), we got to Smart Park, and I was glad I was wearing hiking boots, since lot not plowed.  The van got us to the airport (the Eddystone roads were pretty well plowed), I checked in our bags, we got a wheelchair to the gate, got there by maybe 10, only to be told the flight was cancelled.  There was a huge line in front of the nearby customer svce, but our trusty wheelchair person took us to the head, where we got on a 3:20 PM flight, so our fate wasn't desperate.  We got taken to our new gate on a series of carts (with me on the back, holding on to Steve's walker), and found seats by the window, where nothing much was happening.

I had an Agatha Christie from the library; S read his iPad.  No flights leaving; v little action.  Around maybe 1 PM, snow plows got more active, and maybe 2 PM a plane landed from Dublin and pulled up to our gate (promising).  They boarded S and me onto the plane early, the plane lifted off maybe 5ish, after a stop at de-icing, which was cute -- all these vehicles with cranes spraying our wings -- they looked vaguely alive.

I was kind of Christied out, and it took a while for me to figure out the entertainment system (we were in the first row, with funny screens that pulled out from between our seats.  The only movie I'd heard about was Wonder Woman.  Our systems kept losing sound (Steve and mine), and having to be rebooted, which was a lengthy process, and the movie had some startling transitions (how did they get from a tropical island to Victorian London by sailboat?  The evil poison gas bombs were being made in Turkey, then Belgium.) but it kept me amused, and after it was over there were only a couple hours till we landed.

We landed maybe 7 PM, our bags arrived (thank heavens), we took a taxi downtown.  We'd been going to dine w/ the Shepards and Aaron & Alex, and then Aaron & I were going to have a dance lesson, but it was way too late.  By the S and I were organized for dinner, too late for anything but room service, which, of course, was expensive, and, being initially hungry, we ordered too much.

Rebecca (S's niece from Cleveland) had her flight delayed while they warmed up the fuel, which had frozen.  Beth's flights from Boston cancelled, and she initially thought she wouldn't make it--first flight out was on Sunday.  (Alex and So flew out on Wed).  Ed & Eileen were cancelled from 2 flights at JFK and headed home, to find 3' drifts in front of their house.

We got up, had breakfast with Russ and Kathy, talking genealogy, horticulture, and, eventually, TF-CBT when I hijacked the conversation.  I had a bridesmaid's luncheon at noon -- dressed in unaccustomed pantyhose, slip, skirt and top (warmish, sticky, rainy day), and hurried off to get a manicure, the manicure I'd gotten Saturday having chipped pretty badly.  4 v long blocks to a nice Vietnamese place, where they fussed over my, but I hadn't allowed enough time for my nails to dry, and I messed up two fingernails trying to get my phone out of my pocketbook to call an Uber.  Got to lunch only about 5 min late (this was a woman's club -- no sign and I had trouble finding the bldg numbers), drank water & champagne and talked with Sonia, Alex's grandmother, and Shaina Li, who took Mandarin w/ Alex at Pton & went w/ her to Shanghai

Then we went downstairs to lunch, where the conversation was general.  Bridesmaids got big, canvas tote bags with wedding-day essentials, I got a lovely linen handkerchief from Sonia.  Nice luncheon, and lovely Pavlova's for dessert -- conversation pretty general -- I was trying to figure out who was who (of course, I'd been introduced, but I was flustered as usual & didn't take in names -- it took me several minutes to recollect Claire, whom I'd met 3-4 times -- her family put Aaron up when he first arrived in SF -- he slept wherever Claire's sister Frances wasn't (Claire's parents being divorced, with joint custody)).  Eventually I figured out who Jackie was (e.g. She addressed Sonia as "grandma") and most of the others sort of fell into place.  Prosopagnosia in action.

And finger bowls!!  I’d never been presented w/ one (it arrived on a plate, with dessert fork and spoon on either side.  You dipped your fingers, then moved it to the upper left side of your place, and put the dessert utensils on either side of your setting).  (I was copying Sonia at this point).

The room was warm -- I was probably the only one wearing stockings. 

We dispersed -- Alex summoned an Uber to take herself & me to the top of Nob Hill (she was at the Fairmont).  I spent some time trying in vain to edit the PowerPoint I'd made of slides of Aaron & Alex-- Rod had commented it would be nice to have slides showing Alex & Laurie -- I'd only brought my iPad, not my laptop, and I could see the slides I wanted to insert on the Google Drive app, I just couldn't save them as photos that were accessible to the PowerPoint app.  Sat in the lobby and talked with Jeff, Helen, Carolyn (who offered to come set up for the Rehearsal dinner -- I gladly accepted).

We learned Beth was on a flight from Boston, via DFW, and Ed & Eileen were also making their way across the continent.  David Shepard (Rod's brother) and his family, had a car breakdown.

A bit before 4, we set off for Le Colonial, in the rain, I with a shopping bag full of candles, candlesticks, placecards, table number cards and table number card holders.  Some trouble gaining access -- front door locked and we had to call in, but of course I'd allowed way too much time for setup.  Carolyn, bless her, alphabetized the place cards.  We charged our phones. I had a timeline for the rehearsal dinner (inspired by Melissa the wedding planner's huge timeline for the wedding weekend).

Guests started arriving, and I stood by the placecard table greeting them and trying to remember people.  (Aaron had taken time to go over people w/ us during the weekend -- I should have remembered more).  Claire's biological father looked a bit like the Shepard brothers -- I kept mixing him up with them.  Manny didn't have a fro any more.  (Probably hadn't for years).  There were some Calif friends of the Shepards I didn't get very straight.  Aaron & Alex detained by last-min changes to wedding seating arrangements.

Hors d'oeuvres were good -- I probably ate too many.

We herded people to seats and & did candles/blessing A2 (I left Sarah out of the matriarchs and then couldn't figure out why I had only named 3 -- and I'd been drinking soda water, not alcohol)/kiddish.

We did an open-mike for 45 min.  S talked about how when A was 3, and fascinated w/ pirates, he'd asked A did he want to be a pirate when he grew up, and A said no -- he'd have to drink al-co-hol.  That got a good laugh.  Kim, Alex's aunt, and an ENT at Stanford, talked about an illness of Alex's during freshman winter break that had required multiple surgeries, where Alex went back to school long before most people would have summoned the strength.  Rose had a wonderful, short speech, as did Jeanine.  As did many others.  All speeches were v decorous and appropriate (next day, Claire said that in the ladies' rooms, there were fuller accounts of several incidents (but I got no details)).

Aaron had to get to the bar by 9 to welcome people.  We had the place till 10 -- I'd said to people to stay and talk, but in fact was glad when people left -- I was still on East Coast time.  There was uncertainty about where the bus would pick people up, and Rod got it straightened out and got the bus driver to wait for laggards -- I was so grateful; I'd run out of steam.

Next morning, a lovely, sunny day, I got up and got some oatmeal & practiced dancing briefly with Aaron, and then drank coffee while he & Haishang (one of the groomsmen) had breakfast.  Showered, and showed up at the bridal suite at the Fairmont (Aaron and the rest of us were at the Mark Hopkins, across the street) as instructed, with damp hair and no moisturizer.  The bridesmaids had matching blue robes, each with their initials.  The hair-and-makeup was quite a process -- and of course I sweat and was afraid I would sweat off the makeup.  Took pics of the bridesmaids and Alex -- they were so lovely -- and Sonia.

The bridesmaids chignons looked simple, but in fact took huge amounts of blow-out and hairspray and pinning.

The photographer arrived, and took pix of Alex's shoes -- lovely high heels with red soles (that denotes Christian Louboutin?), and I took pix of her taking the pix. 

There were pix of the bridesmaids lined up & holding champagne flutes.  The dresses (which had been freshly ironed) were lovely -- v classical looking.  Alex was radiant -- luminous. 

There were pictures in the Fairmont courtyard of the bridesmaids.  I hurried over & helped Steve into his tux.  There were pictures in the Mark Hopkins courtyard of the groomsmen. 

The groomsmen' shuttle came; a car came for Steve and me and we were whisked off to the Asian Art museum's service entrance, and back to the bride's / bridesmaids holding room.

The ceremony was lovely -- Aaron's face lit up when he saw Alex-- Steve said afterward he'd never seen Aaron that joyous.  We went downstairs for pictures (elevator floor covered w/ some v slippery plastic -- I got them to put down a rubber mat later)

1/8/2018:  It was a lovely evening.  Jeanine Cotter (Claire Hill’s Mom) officiated – her service was just right.  Actually, she’d had multiple obstacles to overcome – her hair & makeup appts took longer than planned, and she hadn’t emailed herself the service, but fortunately she’d given me a copy to look at, and she could read from that.  Her dress’s delivery got delayed, and getting it from the UPS (?) center was a great effort.

I was so glad to see Beth (I’d spent the day in the bridal suite) and get my picture taken with her.  I felt so funny with my hair teased & so much makeup on.  (Did I say they put shadow on my double chin so it wouldn’t show as much?)

Paulie was there!!  With his new wife.  I’m not sure when I last saw him. 

When I was circulating, Louise and Barbara Almario (who I don’t think had met before the weekend) were deep in discussion about the background for Eve and the Flowers (Eve was a v. difficult accountant at MetLife – v. vexed she didn’t have a high enough rank to get an office under the new “open” plan, who had gotten her bosses’ boss to call me after Mother’s Day 2016, alleging that the peonies and lilacs that L&A had sent were giving her an allergic reaction. She was let go some months after I retired).  I felt like a famous author.

Rose was drinking whiskey!! (Aaron having recommended it for her sore throat.)

Excellent passed hors-d’oeuvres (my favorite was the rare lamb chops).  The seating plan was more detailed than I’d seen – not only were you assigned a table, but there was a menu at your place w/ your name on it, nestled in your folded napkin.

Dance w/ Aaron went ok – we went in ½ way through In My Life, which is only a couple min long.  Only problem is he doesn’t quite follow the beat, so I had to remind myself to follow him, not quite the music.  Then I danced w/ Rod (Alex’s Dad).  Then I danced w/ various women, and Steve got up and danced some, too.  The Shepard cousins were adorable – all 4 were dancing together—like puppies, sort of in a heap.

Aaron’s speech at the cake cutting was sweet, and he quoted the she-hechiyanu, which was v. touching.  And the cake was good!!  (lemon poppy on some layers, and chocolate caramel on others, which sounds weird).  My only problem was by then I couldn’t eat enough to even finish it, and I’d had a good deal of wine.

Steve and I left soon after the cake cutting (around 11 or so, so as far as we were concerned it was 2 AM).  HOWEVER, I missed the finale, apparently a Carleton tradition.  At 11:50, Aaron had asked that the band play Like a Prayer, and all the Carleton men took off their shirts and danced around topless.

Anyway, next morning, S and I got up and packed (we were going to stay at an airport hotel, to catch our 8 AM flight out), and Rod and Laurie had a brunch for everyone at the Top of the Mark, so lovely views.  Caviar station, shellfish station, carved lamb chops.  Excellent lox, but the bagels weren’t up to NY standards (my only small quibble).  And Aaron and Alex looking so happy.

Did I say the bride’s gift to the groom was an 1831 cavalry sword?  Aaron was overwhelmed.

Anyway, Alex & Aaron sat and talked with Steve and me a little after people left – they’re headed for New Orleans for a few days of honeymoon, and then back to NYC.

S and I headed to our airport hotel, where I started writing this screed (and we also napped).  Flight home uneventful – watched a silly Reece Witherspoon movie (home again?) and read yet another Agatha Christie (I have to stop reading her, the plot elements are repeating a little).  Airport parking lot v icy, but the nice shuttle driver scraped off my windshield.  Our street was a sheet of ice, and all I could think to do was pull into our driveway as far as possible (S’s car not parked close to the house, but that was my fault), totter in with our hand-luggage, and figure out how to get our suitcases out tomorrow.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

extirpating bamboo

Baby gear and swaddled bear

Leon and Genya -- Salmon River pix

Pix from Silverton

Pictures from Leon and Genya's wedding

Tubuala: 1976-1977

Grandmother ("Mu") of my host family

Men talking at an "inna" (to celebrate a girl's adolescence), drinking sugar-cane wine

Tubuala (the village I studied)

clearing a field for bananas -- I measured dozens of these fields, with a tape measure and brunton compass

Saturday, December 16, 2017



Steve's rocking horse

Stepstools that were baby presents to Leon and Aaron

The armoire that held our ancient TV