Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gone with the Smell

The recent complaints of fishermen and other Gulf of Mexico area residents about a heavy oil odor in the air which might be toxic, remind us of the other heavy, stubborn odor which presents no danger, only great unpleasantness - the odor of fish.

One could smell a fishing village before one could even see it. The fishing villages have a charm of their own if you could ignore the smell. Well, as a visitor , and only as a visitor, I could. After all, the smell is an integral part of the scenery and the daily life here. People have to utilize what nature offers them . In the areas near lakes, rivers, ponds, seas - the offer is Fish of all sorts and sizes and with... the smell of fish.

(At home, that's a different matter. I like to eat fish, but I dislike the smell and I cannot ignore it as it can stick around long after the 'mess' of cooking and eating is gone. I do my best to find ways to neutralize it. Natural acids like lemon and vinegar usually do the job. There are of course, commercial solutions ,such as enzymatic sprays, which could help if anything else fails).

All over the world the shores of water bodies are punctuated with traditional fishing villages, and the more modern ones, the recreational fishing villages that allow urban people to escape from the everyday rat race.

A half day trip from Amsterdam, Holland, brings you to the world famous historical fishing villages of Volendam and Marken on the coast of the former Zuidersee (now called Ljsselmeer). These villages have wooden little houses, old boats and traditional costumes that are still worn by the local people .

Marken costume and Volendam boats

Things change slowly but surely in the fishing industry: the methods of catching the fish, cleaning, weighing, salting, drying, marketing it, the quality of the boats - all undergo processes of improvement , but... the fish smell with its unpleasantness remains a constant factor which permeats the whole place.

Maybe scientists are able , or will be able in the future to grow in artificial ponds, fish without the specific odour, just as they nowadays grow sabra fruit without the outer thorns or water melons and grapes without the inner seeds. It wouldn't taste the same though.

* The painting on top - "A fishing village in Newfoundland" by Sterling Edwards (click to enlarge it.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

HaYarkon 181

The above 9-floor building is known by the name of 'the crazy house'. The back of it looks as if covered with pieces of white sheets, the front resembles a persian carpet. I wouldn't call it 'crazy' ; 'unusual' seems to be a more appropriate word. Compared to the other buildings in the city , everything about it is unusual: its location - among ordinary buildings , the architecture - a mixture of Gaudi and Art Nouveau styles; the construction and decorating materials - a combination of natural elements such as wood, sand, limestone, shells, plants, and urban elements : metal, cement.

Anyway, it stands out in its surrounding; it can hardly be missed by the passers by. At the opposite side of the street, there's a bench (donated to the city by the entrepeneur) that matches the style of the building. The bench is a splendid idea; people can sit comfortably on it, and contemplate in wonder "the crazy house".

During the construction period 1982 -1985 ( it was ready to be inhabited only in 1989 as it took seven years to get all the necessary license documents !!) there was much controversy about this building project - people liked to hate it. It was not surprising; after all, people tend to dislike and even hate the unusual, the different, the alien. Besides, there was also the envy factor - not everyone could afford an appartment in such an exclusive building on the border line between the sea and the city, with both views - to the sea and to the city available.

After it became "fait accompli' , the locals got indifferent to it, whereas tourists found it a great object for photography. The area is frequented by tourists as it is close to the sea and there are many hotels , bars, travel agencies around, so this building became one of the city's touristic curiosities.

The 'crazy' house, designed by architect Leon Gnignebt , is situated at 181 Hayarkon street in Tel Aviv .The house is residential, not open to the public. To those interested in seeing the details of both the interior (with its wall paintings, sculptures, carpets etc..) and the exterior (including the roof, pool, garden, fence) of this odd piece of architecture , you could look for the video presenting the slideshow created by the tour- guide Henya Michelson. Even if the captions are in hebrew, still, it gives some pretty good idea of the building .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Don't Panic, Go Organic"

Among the various food items in my kitchen, a place of honor is given to the bottle of the organic, extra -virgin, cold pressed, olive oil used for flavoring and cooking. My favorite brand is produced in a small, family-owned oil press in the Nahal (stream) Zalmon area.

The Zalmon stream is a long stream which flows in the north part of Israel on the border between the regions of Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee and terminates into the Sea of Galilee ( Lake Kinneret). The area surrounding it, is a very beautiful, peaceful one, often visited by families with children on vacation; the scenery is breathtaking: mountains, villages, valleys.(The serenity of the place was grossly violated seven years ago when a young czech tourist female was strangled here with a thin cable by a young man from one of the nearby villages; he then placed her head under the water and put large stones on her body. It was murder for the sake of murder , as the judge said in court).

The trees that grow the olives out of which the oil is extracted are hundreds and even thousands of years old!! There's no need for irrigation or any artificial manipulation, and the hard olives are hand picked. The oil produced from these olives is thicker, more aromatic , with texture and flavor of high quality.

A basic salad consisting of organically grown veggies and sprinkled with this organic olive oil, or a similar quality oil is a delightful dish. An addition of an organic egg and/or organic cheese to it, makes this dish into a
wonderful, healthy meal.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Midnight Slaughter in San Diego

In one of the previous posts, I've mentioned my Genealogical Quest - an attempt to track the saga of my ucrainian/romanian Great Grandmother in America, and find information about her descendants .

It's not an easy task; it takes a lot of time, energy, and feelings. Sometimes you come upon positive things such as one of GG's grandson being a leading legislator in Michigan and his sister a talented singer who has her own radio station; sometimes you come upon personal tragedies such as the untimely deaths of another grandson and his daughter in Miami. And then, you face an unimaginable event of extremely tragic proportions - the slaughter of an entire family by its adopted (at birth) teenager. An event such as the last one devastates you emotionally for weeks ,and greatly delays your work on the project.

It happened in San Diego , California. in the condo of an elderly couple , my GG's grandaughter and her husband. There were six people inside the condo : the elderly couple, their daughter and her three family members ( her husband, their 10-year old girl, and the 16 year old adopted son) on visit from Las Vegas. Five were killed by the sixth one, the adoptee.The murder was planned by the teenager as he was was very angry about being sent to a boarding school for troubled youths in West Los Angeles, away from his parents and sister who lived in Las Vegas. He used a hammer, a kitchen knife and an ax to slay his victims, then he cleaned the murder weapons, took a shower, changed his clothes, set the condominium on fire to cover up the crime, and left.

According to online sources, he was trouble from the beginning, hostile to his adopters and agressive in school. He was an emotionally disturbed child who turned into a vicious, dangerous teenager. There was also slight criticism on the parents in some sources implying that they had put pressure to change the diagnosis from "emotionally disturbed" to "learning disabled", and by doing so they had possibly prevented from him adequate treatment. I find that hard to believe (authorities always look for ways to cover up their action or lack of action), and I don't "buy" the possibility of treatment in this case.

Anyway, I believe the only good thing the parents could have done was to have opened their eyes widely before adopting him, by checking for defective genes inherited from his biological family. It's sad, but people are more careful about buying a car than about adopting a child.

The bitter irony was that my great grandmother had left Romania hoping for a more secure life for her children in the new country. Luckily, she didn't live to witness that mini american -style holocaust of grandaughter and her immediate family. May they all rest in peace!

The photo at the top - "Killer Bean Forever

Monday, May 31, 2010

The "Osama" Offer

I said No although I would have liked to say Yes.

It was summertime, and the spacious well air-conditioned Post Office of my town was a pleasant refuge from the heat outside. I was sitting on a small bench placed in a corner, trying to figure out the reason for the additional money I'd been charged with, to release a parcel sent to me from abroad.

Suddenly, I became aware of a guy of yemenite origin, his face resembling that of another yemenite, Osama bin Laden without the beard - staring at me insistently. He approached my bench, sat down near me, and after a few opening sentences offered me a nice sum of money for...the small, simple pendant hanging on my neck. I was so surprised by his offer that I immediately uttered the truth: "it's not gold, only gold plated", I said. "I know that, I've made it myself", "You what?!?!" was my reaction to his astonishing words.

He told me a story about his being a graduate of the Bezalel School of Art and Crafts in Jerusalem, department of jewelry. During the period of studying at the famous school (nowadays called the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design) he created some unique pieces of jewelry, partly based on knowledge he had acquired as a child in his father's tiny workshop (Jewelry-making was considered a respectful profession among the yemenite jews. They worked with silver mainly, occasionally with gold, and specialized in filigree style {filigree -twisted wire threads of silver or gold} and in granulation style{decoration of the jewel surface with granules-small spheres of precious metal} ).

"Then what's the problem, make another one like mine" I suggested.
He said he was no longer in the jewelry trade, he got no tools for that intricate kind of work, he was very busy, but...he had Money, and was willing to pay nicely for Bezalel-made pieces of jewelry in general, and to regain some of his own pieces in particular. In short, he was a collector.

I had to disappoint him. The pendant was a gift from an aunt of mine and it meant a lot to me sentimentally; besides , I loved its design. He left me his visit card in case I change my mind. After a few days, I told a friend about this strange encounter at the Post Office. She didn't buy "Osama's story"; she had some other theory about the whole thing, but I was not going to test it.

Anyhow, I haven't put any piece of jewelry around my neck since that day ; I can't explain this, but it's a fact.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dolphins and Humans

The first time in my life I saw dolphins was at the Dolphinarium on the beachfront of the city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The Dolphinarium with its big stadium, large dolphin pool with underwater viewing arena, and the performing bottle nose dolphins (the most common dolphin species) - made a lasting impression on me.

The dolphin daily show at the Dolphinarium ( part of the Aquarium housed in the great Bayworld Oceanarium complex) , was a very popular attraction amongst local and international visitors. People, and especially children, were fascinated by the beauty, and grace of the dolphins's acrobatic jumps, flips, breaches , tail waving etc..

It's amusing to know that these performing creatures sometimes have to be put on diet. Despite the fact that they excercise a lot and display great energy in their acrobatics, if they overeat they develop fat stomachs which affect their abilities in their aquatic performance. So, no fatty mackerel for you guys, only white, lean fish.

(It's a bit like in humans; exercising is helpful in maintaining normal weight, in preventing weight gain, but if you're fat, you'll first have to do something about your food intake, excercing alone won't make you slim).

Dolphins , like humans, recognize themselves in the mirror - sign of self-awareness and that's great! Well, they do have what to see in the mirror: cute, friendly faces and an intelligent look.

Speaking of intelligence, dolphins are considered the most intelligent animals and this trait is very appealing to humans who make use of it and interract with dolphins in various fields: medical (therapeutic swimming of dolphins with handicapped children and adults) , military (dolphins are trained to locate sea mines by producing sounds and listening to their echo), fishing ( dolphins cooperate with fishermen by driving fish into their nets), rescue (dolphins can save people from drowning by raising them to surface). Dolphins adapt well to human companionship and are easily trained to perform tasks, provided the trainer shows them respect.

Relationship between mother dolphin -baby dolphin and that among grown-up dolphins seems similar to relarionship in humans.

Baby dolphins suck warm milk from their mother's mammal glands; they keep close to their mother who protects them and teaches them skills to get their food. How sweet!
As for dolphins in general they appear to be quite social creatures, they're seen ganging together like humans.

Here's a lovely 'dolphin' poem by Horace Dobbs, I've found on the Web:

Pushing through green waters/ Symbol of joy
You leap from the depts /To touch the sky
Scattering spray/Like handful of jewels
Not caged by union rules/unfettered by sales targets
No trains or planes to catch/ Your time is set by the flow
of the sea's tides
You give us images of ecstasy/That we lock away
Behind the doors of memory /For quiet moments
When released from our possessions/ We dream of a freedom
like yours
[Dolphins and Man...equals?]

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Ugly and the Beautiful

The title of this post doesn't refer to people, but to two memorials located within a central, busy square - Rabin Square - of the Town Hall in Tel Aviv. The square ( previously called Kings of Israel and renamed Rabin's Square in memory of the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzach Rabin) is often used for demonstrations, open-air concerts, exhibitions, various ceremonies and festivities.

At one end of the square there's a memorial sculpture for Holocaust victims. created by the israeli painter and sculptor , Yigal Tomarkin, who's known as an anti-establishment person and artist. It's a 10 meter tall monument, a rusty metal structure of an inverted pyramid with glass window panels. The monument is ugly and totally out of place. I don't like to look at it, certainly not come near it as it's rusty, full of dust and bird shit (I suppose it gets cleaned from time to time). There were attempts to remove it , but the sculptor fought against these attempts in court and outside it, so here it stays.

At the other end of the square - there's a memorial area for Yitzhach Rabin located a few feet away from the spot where he has been shot. The monument , designed by a woman architect, Ms. Claude Grundman Brightman and carried out by the sculptress Yael ben Artzi, is made of 16 bazalt rocks arranged in a grid and contained by a steel frame; the stones are set at varying heights and lit from below by a light suggesting the everlasting fire.

It is beautiful. I would say, it definitely has a woman's touch; after all, it's the creation of two women. Many people come to the place, lit candles in Rabin's memory, pray, take pictures, discuss its significance. No one can remain indifferent to the dark basalt rocks sunken in the pavement.
Unlike the Hollocaust Memorial which stands high above the ground, Rabin's Memorial is almost at ground level, so it doesn't interfere with anything, but looks an integral part of the square.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"He has met his Waterloo"

Waterloo is a nice little town near Brussells in Belgium with lots of green fields. About a mile from the town is the battlefield where Napoleon Buonaparte's french army, was defeated by the Duke of Wellington's allied forces in June 1815. The legend of Napoleon's invincibility was shattered at Waterloo. Hence the expression "He has met his Waterloo" (meaning 'he has met with defeat').

On the spot where the decisive battle took place, there's a memorial monument in the form of a lion a top a manmade hill with 226 stairs(!!) overlooking the battlefield.
(Ladies, please wear trousers not a skirt when climbing those stairs , otherwise you will be offering a panoramic view to the people at the bottom of the hill, prior to the real panoramic view awaiting at the top !!).

the Lion Hill

In a building adjacent to the Lion Hill - the Panorama Building - there's a huge circular painting portraying scenes of the battle fought on 18 June 1815. In the background, sound effects of battle noises, cannon and gun fire. The viewer relives the great moments of the battle. A very thrilling experience!

part of the circular painting

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my Waterloo

The above is the refrain of the famous Eurovision Contest winning song (1974) WATERLOO composed and performed by the very successful swedish ABBA band.(see the video below).The song was inspired by the battle at Waterloo and Napoleon's defeat, and it's a sort of comparison of a lover's romantic surrender to that of Napoleon's surrender.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fame and Horror in Edinburgh

The name's a bit confusing as it is spelled in various ways: Edinburg, Edinburgh, Edinborough, Edinbourgh...but the city itself is remarkable in all respects. It's an inspiring city due to a lucky combination of historical , architectural and cultural elements.

Edinburgh , capital of Scotland, is the birthplace of Sir Walter Scott, the famous novelist (author of "Ivanhoe") , Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ( the creator of Sherlock Holmes), actor Sir Sean Conery (the first 007 agent, of the renowned TV serial). The city is host to a lot of annual festivals, the most well-known being The Edinburgh International Festival of music, opera, theatre, dance, and exhibitions held in August.

The dark gothic monument built in honour of Sir Walter Scott is one of the biggest attractions in the city - 61 m high, its top reached via 278 steps! (The architect never saw his final work as he tripped into a canal and drowned). The monument is decorated with 64 statuettes which are believed to illustrate characters from Walter Scott's novels and from scottish literature in general. Below the arches, there's a white marble statue of the writer and his dog.

The Edinburg Castle- the symbol of Edinburg and of Scotland, fortress and formal royal residence - is ,no doubt, number one tourist attraction in Edinburg. It stands on an extinct volcano and offers a splendid panoramic view of the city. There's much to be seen in the castle: royal appartments, the room containing the scottish crown jewels, the dungeon, cannons, and various arms on display. There's some military presence at the castle for ceremonies mainly.
I happened to be there when a gun was fired and it scared the bejesus out of me.
It was the firing of the one o'clock gun used to allow ship captains to set their clocks and watches by.

Horror tours within the historic old town area are very popular. Visitors are taken to dark courts and alleys, to chambers used by witches, to haunted graveyards - and told scaring tales about tortures, murders, paranormal happenings. Edinburgh Castle is considered one of the most haunted places. Like many other castles it has its dungeons where prisoners were tortured and killed. These dungeons are believed to be haunted by the ghosts of their victims.

It was Robert Louis Stevenson, born in Edinburgh, who wrote the nightmarish story "The strange case of Dr Jeykell and Mr Hyde". Well, the Old historic, haunted town and the New elegant, sophisticated town of Edinburgh are said to be symbolic of these two characters: Dr Jeykell, and Mr. Hyde.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pedestrian Mall and the Star

On Tuesdays and Fridays, the pedestrian zone of Nachlat Benyamin street in Tel Aviv, turns into a colourful, lively, open mall with artists selling their original handicrafts, with musicians and pantomime entertainers performing their magic shows, with cute cafes and restaurants feeding the visitors, with lots of people wandering among the stands looking for gifts to buy or just contemplating the crafts on display, and absorbing the special atmosphere of the place.

The pedestrian zone of Nachlat Binyamin street is located between Carmel Market and Alenby street. At the meeting point of these three sites , one could watch the singing performance of Miri Aloni (60), a former star with a superb, powerful voice who has become during the last decade a street singer. She accompanies her Hit songs with guitar playing; people watch, listen and put coins and bills into the box placed near her.

Miri Aloni first came to be noticed in the Sixties. She was then the soloist of one of the army regimental bands, The Nachal Band. She had a captivating voice, good looks, great talent, and so, following her success during her army service , she became one of the greatest israeli pop and rock stars. But something happened to her on the way to consolidating her stardom. After a very promising start and a certain period of glory there began a decline in her career. According to the gossip columns in the newspapers it was 'cherchez l'homme'- look for the man in her life. It was said that she was attracted to the wrong type of men who suppressed her personality and damaged her professional carreer.

Anyway, in november 1995 she became well-known abroad too due to a tragic event - the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhac Rabin at a peace gathering held at the Municipality square of Tel Aviv. She was on the stage singing together with Rabin and the foreign minister Peres her famous song Shir La Shalom (Song for Peace); minutes later, Rabin was assassinated. In interviews to the Media during the ensuing years she claimed that she was not happy being associated with tragedy and complained that this association had deteriorated her career and her ability to make a living.

Miri Aloni should be appreciated not only for her vocal performance but also for her tough character. Not everyone in her position would have survived this transition from concert halls to street corners.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls

Schaffhausen- a word I could never forget. My father owned a schaffhausen watch , which was considered expensive and hard to obtain. One day it was stolen from him and that made him terribly sad. No hugs and promises of a new watch could make him overcome his bad mood. ( I'm afraid I have inherited this trait of character ; whenever I lose an item I can go sad for days , which is of course stupid. One shouldn't get so attached to things; it's only people that matter.).

Later on, I learned that Schaffhausen is a city in northern Switzerland with a long tradition of fine watchmaking. The IWC (International Watch Co) , a high-end Swiss watch manufacturer, is located in Schaffhausen.
However, the main attraction in Schaffhausen is not the watch industry or the city itself with its medieval car-free old town, but the Rhine Falls (3 km distance from the city).

I came to Schaffhausen with the ticking of my father's stolen watch in my mind, and I ended my tour with the thundering of the Rhine Falls in my ears. I could have composed a piece of music starting with ticking, and ending with thundering, and in the middle of it, the various noises made by the tourists ( if I were a composer).

Anyway, near Schaffhausen, the river Rhine offers a spectacular show (especially on a sunny day) of the waterfalls - the largest waterfalls in Europe (150mW, 23mH). It is possible to reach the Falls walking along the banks of the river , or by bus.

Once on the spot, one has to try and change positions to find a good angle to best see the roaring falls and take good pictures.
One can also catch a boat ride to a rock in the middle of the cascading waters which enables a closer view of them (if one doesn't mind to get wet by the gushing waters, of course)
Close by, on a cliff, proudly overlooking the Falls, is the old castle Schloss Laufen, which serves as a complex, housing: a restaurant, a hotel, a youth hostel and a gift shop.

A visit to the Rhine Falls is great fun; it offers amazing sights and sounds.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Sacrifice

Banks are not my 'cup of tea', but this one was an exception; firstly, because of its attractive facade, pleasant staff & atmosphere, and location near a garden; secondly, because of an aquaintance of mine who used to work there. Whenever this aquaintance saw me in the bank she greeted me warmly and it was a pleasure to exchange a few words with her.

One day she saw me, and ...ignored me. I told my brother about that as she was the wife of one of his friends. He said that she was avoiding everyone because of their eldest son - a fresh soldier, who had collapsed during an army drill, was hospitalized, and after a while released both from the hospital and the army and put on medication. I asked my brother for details as to the nature of the collapse, but he couldn't provide any as both parents had refused to talk about it even with friends.

The worst was yet to come. During the period of intense worry for her son, this aquaintance of mine, Aliza, a pretty woman about 45 years of age, a top employee at the bank, was diagnosed with liver cancer. I visited her at the hospital two weeks before her death.There was something about her that immediately caught my attention: her beautiful hair was intact, face not much altered, and when she smiled with her pearly little teeth , one could hardly guess she was dying.

It was at the funeral, that the secret was disclosed to me. After the burrial and before leaving the cemetery, her mourning husband whispered in my ear that she had strongly refused to receive chemotherapic treatment. The logic behind her decision was that: Liver cancer is fatal. Chemotherapy might prolong her life with several more months but the price would be too high, it could kill her son. Still not completely recovered from his collapse, seeing his mother, in a highly helpless situation between hair loss and vomiting sessions - it would have been the end of him.

I believe the son is not without health problems today, but he 's got a job , a wife, and two kids. Sometimes, I wonder whether he knows about his mother's sacrifice.

I've closed my account at the bank, one of the reasons being that it fills me with deep sadness to enter this place and not see Aliza's familiar face there. Whenever near the building, I still enjoy, however, having a look at its appealing facade and its compact, modern architecture.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beer and Lace

Belgium is a cute little european country famous for its chocolates (Godivas, Leonidas confections) its beer (about 700! types of beer), its lace, and many historical, architectural, cultural attractions . When on tour at belgian chocolate factories or beer breweries, one gets to sample the products , and this in itself is a tasty, wonderful experience.

My great surprise at the time of my visit in Belgium, was that at McDonald's - a child and family oriented chain, with most of the staff underage - they, an alcoholic beverage. I thought that was strange. In reply to my questions on the matter, I was told that in Belgium , there were generally fewer restrictions and age related limitations on alcohol consumption than in the USA and other countries, and that beer drinking in particular was a major part of belgian culture. Belgium, so it appeared, was the first country in the world that served beer in its McDonalds.

I must admit that I myself greatly liked the idea of beer with my Mac meal . I was tired and hungry from touring , so a glass of icy cold beer to wash down the Mac burger and the fries was very welcomed . Besides , it was a new experience for me. I usually don't drink alcoholic beverages. It's not that I don't like to , it's just that these beverages don't like me; a drop of wine and my head drops , and this is embarrassing when you're sitting at the table with people. With the belgian beer I 've had no problem at all. Anyway, my all time favourite cold beverage is soda water or sparkling mineral water.

The gem of any tour in Belgium is the well preserved city of Brugges. It' s often called "Venice of the North" because of its canals and bridges. Brugges is synonymous with lace as the 'bobbin lace' work ( a branch of lace making) is a specialty of this city.

Lace -making has an history of exploitation of girls from poor families. The girls , good at this craft because of their little nimble fingers , were considered cheap labour, . Lace making was a sedentary kind of work, bad for the eyes and for the spine. Young girls in convents were sitting for hours bent up, not allowed to raise their eyes from their work. As a result of the hard physical conditions they looked pale, weak, undersized. The girls paid a very heavy personal price to allow the bourgeoise ladies the pleasure of wearing lace.

Nowadays , lace is made chiefly as small souvenirs (doilies mainly) as it is very expensive for other purposes. Anyway, no one leaves Brugges without a souvenir of lace and neither did I.

In the photo below we see a girl dressed in a traditional outfit sitting outside and demonstrating the craft of lace-making.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

The "Flexible" Pharmacy

It was in a small building on a narrow lateral street. Inside, there were only two people serving the customers- a wife and her husband, both pharmacists.

I was directed to this pharmacy with the recommendation that it was " flexible" , meaning that one could get stuff unobtainable at other pharmacies. And it wasn't for money. The middle-aged couple were just kind people trying to help wherever and whenever possible.

My mother had been suffering for some time of a bad ear itching. Nothing helped relieve the problem except a certain solution prescribed by an experienced ear doctor. It was a cheap solution and easily prepared by any pharmacist. To my astonishment, I found myself one day in the position that nobody wanted to prepare it for me . It appeared that the active ingredient, 'boron', was found to be carcinogenic in children, and its use was forbidden by the Health Authorities. Well, my mother was no child and she insisted on having the solution at any cost. That's why and how I got to the 'flexible' pharmacy.

It was a good feeling to enter this place - an intimate, family establishment, with a nicely arranged interior and superb service. One day, I found the front door closed, and on it an obituary announcing the sudden death of the woman pharmacist. The shop reopened some two months later. The man was unrecognizable; he looked a human wreck. He told me he had made a great effort to return to work hoping it would give him a chance to go on living, as he felt he couldn't make it without his wife.

The next time I came to the place, I saw one corner full with shoe boxes. What was all that about? The man said he intended to turn his pharmacy into a shoe shop. Since his wife's death he had developed some health issues and was afraid to deal with preparation and selling of medications ; so he decided on something he was familiar with from childhood when he used to help his father in the family-owned shoe shop . The pharmacist sounded to me confused, so I left without asking for the solution.

I happened to be in that vicinity several more times. He was not there, the pharmacist, and I saw no shoe shop but a cosmetics shop, and next time there was a hairdresser's shop, and then a food shop. Flexible place indeed...

The entire episode gave me much food to thought. I've seen men deteriorate after their wife's death but not so quickly and not in such an abrupt manner. What happened in this particular case was perhaps the fact that they had no life at all without each other ; they were together all the time : at home and at work.

As for the difficulty in obtaining the solution - a friend pharmacist of mine was among those who refused to prepare it for me after the 'boron' element was put on the "black list". I reminded him of the saying "A friend in need is a friend indeed" and cut off any contact with him. I was confident that I would have taken the risk of ignoring the stupid health regulation to help a friend in distress ('stupid' was the word used by him later on when he tried to apologize for his behaviour).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

At The Parade ; On The Fishing Boat

On last Sunday, day of the joyous and colorful Purim holiday, there were heavy rains , so the annual traditional Purim Youth Parade was postponed until Friday ( March 5). On Friday the weather was rather hot , but the parade... paraded nevertheless. After the procession came to an end, all the participating youth groups and the general public gathered around three main stages placed on the avenue where the municipality building of our town is located, to watch a variety of outdoor dance, music, and circus shows.

Here's a short slideshow I've created with some snaps taken at the Purim Parade (Adloiada - עדלוידע). Open up the speakers, please!

On The Fishing Boat

"The most wasted of all days is the one during which you did not laugh".

[" One morning the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, his wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors and reads her book.

Along comes a Game Warden in his boat, he pulls up alongside the woman and says:

- Good Morning Ma'am, what are you doing?

- Reading a book, she replies (thinking... isn't that obvious?)

-You're in a Restricted Fishing Area, he informs her.

- I'm sorry officer, but I'm not fishing, I'm reading.

- Yes, but you have all the Equipment. For all I know, you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.

- For reading a book?

- You're in a Restricted Fishing Area , he informs her again.

- I'm sorry officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.

- Yes, but you have all the Equipment. Again, for all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.

- If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault, says the woman.

- But I haven't even touched you, says the Game Warden

- That's true, but you have all the Equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.

- Have a nice day Ma'am, and he left"].

"Never argue with a woman who reads. She can also think."