Archive for May, 2004

SevenWeeks 5764 or Give Me Mozarella or Give me Death

Shavuot, my favourite holiday, foodwise. Cheese! And more cheese!

This time i made a lasagna. My first. It was kosher — i replaced the meat with mushrooms, which was a gamble, but came out really well.

The night after that i had some weird dreams — first, that i’m a character in a Big Lebowski sequel, where Walter “Shomer-Shabbes” Sobchak becomes a cheese factory manager. And later, that i went to a trip with El’ad and forgot to take the food and had to come back and somehow made all the way to a supermarket in Moscow, where i had to choose between Gouda cheese and beef jerky … Guess what i got.

Pop

Sonic Youth — finally, a pop band. I am still keeping my Stina Nordenstam fixation, classifying artists by the degree of their susceptibility and submission to their fans. And so it seems, that Sonic Youth are going to surrender completely to critics’ and fans’ will and make a sequel to 2002′s duely acclaimed Murray Street.

Now please forget anything you may or may not think about this rock’n’roll band and just listen patiently to this teaser song from the upcoming album Sonic Nurse, I Love You Golden Blue. I know nearly all of their catalog by heart, so from the first moments it sounded just like them — quiet static. It actually somehow gave me the feeling of the color blue. After a few seconds some sporadic strumming joins, again it is trademark SY. Beautiful, by the way. To the trained fan’s ear it’s been a treat until now, almost a guilty pleasure, but it’s just the beginning, as after a minute or so, the actual song starts, quiet, slow and melodic! AHHHHHHHH! And yet it is 100% Sonic Youth. Kim sings, and unlike most of the time, she actually tries not to fake! The song is quite long, but pretty much verse-chorus-verse and without any chaotic feedback freakouts. As it draws to the end, i understand that i won’t need a thesaurus to look for adjectives that could properly describe the outcome — it is very simply beautiful. Just as i expected. Classic Sonic Youth, lovable Sonic Youth, my favourite old Sonic Youth, doing what they do so well for over 20 years now, beautiful songs.

And the point is that this whole expectedness is actually worrying. Are words like “songcraft” about to be applied to the great iconoclasts of pop culture? Did they become, God forbid, professional in indie-crowd-pleasing? Particularly worrying are the lines Kim sings in the chorus:

I can’t feel the thrill,
I don’t have the will.

It is worrying, cuz the last time their lyrics seemed so multidimensionally self-referential was on Dirty’s “Youth Against Fascism” with “It’s the song I hate”, when it wasn’t clear what Thurston hates more — fascists or making MTV hits. So, Kim — who can’t feel the thrill? The imaginary hero of the song, or maybe yourself after all those years? Cuz i admit that i’m still thrilled to hear you. Even though you can’t sing.

As i go back to their excellent official website and listen to the “mixtape” (recommended to fans only), i relax. They still can kick some avant-garde ass if they want to, and release an incredible pop album every two years so Geffen keeps giving them money to hang in the studio (click on ECHOCAM at their website). Now let me please just let go and enjoy.

P.S. Two more things, that i wanted to write in this entry, but couldn’t find the write place:

  1. Sonic Youth albums seem to be getting better and better ever since 1995′s Washing Machine (this includes the underrated 2000′s NYC Ghosts and Flowers).
  2. So does their artwork.

That’s it. I hope everyone enjoys it.

Shtetl City

At some point during the trip, i asked El’ad — “Is there a town in the USA which is completely Jewish?”

He replied — “I don’t think so, I’ve never heard of one … except New York, of course.”

Sick

My trip story will follow shortly. In the meantime, this little important thing:

Amir G. makes me sick, very physically, sick and nauseous. When i first came to the job after the trip, with his usual abysmally serious intonation he uttered: “Aharoni! You’re finally back. You left a lot of unfinished tasks! We are very unhappy about you.” Keep reading, it’s getting better!

“What unfinished tasks?”, i asked him. His viciousness was clearly unprepared for that.

“Ehh … ehh … Rakhamim will tell you.”

And then, by some magic, Rakhamin enters the office. By that time, i was already feeling dizzy, disoriented and squeamish.

“Rakhamim! Tell Aharoni why are we so mad at him!”, said Amir G. before making himself busy with the traditional duty-free Toblerone‘s i brought.

“Aharoni! It’s good you’re back. I want to punish you, you left a lot of undone work. But first, do you know that you have several special nightshifts starting next week?”

Of course it was spoken with the familiar clueless smile, that i tried so hard to forget in California. After a few minutes of some more void speeches both left the room, leaving me nauseous until the end of the day, and i’m quite sure that jet lag was not to blame here.

Thank you, my dearly beloved wonderful bosses for this hearty reception. Damn those work contracts.

California day 15 and the flight back

I insisted that El’ad should drive with me to the airport because i didn’t want to kill myself on the last day. I took me a few minutes to convince him that he can take the bus back after we return the car, but common sense prevailed.

The drive was indeed dangerous — there’s no chance i could do it myself safely. The car return process was very easy and quick. On the shuttle from Avis agency to the airport i filled a customer survey and asked El’ad to mail it for me when he gets back to Beverly Hills.

The baggage check-in was mostly a breeze, and just like in the way back from London, they hardly looked at my passport. They did check the bags though, because of the tent and it was a little embarassing to show the security girl the Hooters calendar.

Then i bought Rémy Martin XO in the duty-free for $88 for my dad, ate one last burrito, said El’ad one last goodbye and went to the boarding gate. The Israelis there were very unhappy to realize that they missed the duty-free.

The flight was so-so, i hardly got any sleep, but the movies weren’t so bad: Cheaper by the Dozen which was actually unprecedented crap; Along Came Polly, which was silly, but had nice dance scenes (i can’t believe i just wrote that); Paycheck, which was 98% copied from Minority Report, not half as good, but entertaining; Mooseport with Gene Hackman and Ray Romano, which was entertaining too, but only mildly and it also made me feel happy (for the thousandth time) that i’m not American. But it took Girl with a Pearl Earring to finally help me doze off.

The interesting part in the flight was talking to Doc, a 70+ year old Jewish surfer from Hawaii. Like many … things in America, it was a little surreal: his baggage consisted of surfers posters and a surfboard. And he could hardly walk. We talked about surfing, Israel, Israeli girls, more surfing, Tel Aviv hotels and beaches and i also told him why is it important not to change currency at the airport (those shameless Jews!)

Towards the end of the flight i imagined myself meeting Hadar, which actually made me extremely happy. I imagined it all in great detail (but nothing dirty) and it put a big phat smile on my face. It’s good to be on the road back home again.

When i landed i was surprised that El-Al didn’t lose any of my baggage, not even the sleeping bag mattress. Hadar’s parents kindly picked up my stuff and put it at their place and i went straight to Jerusalem to meet my darling. She was at the Student Day party at Giv’at-Ram, so i took a shower at the dorms and went to see her there. When i came in, Ivri Lider was on the stage. The second i saw Hadari, i ran to her and we had a very very long hug.

If there is one reason to travel, coming home would be it.

California day 14

One day before the last. It’s about time — a great trip is coming to an end and i had enough, in a good way.

Essentially it was one more long and calm drive. I was starting to get really mad missing my dear Hadar, but on the other hand i knew that i’m getting closer to her every second and it soothed me.

We decided to pass on the world-famous Hearst Castle, because we didn’t have too much time and didn’t want to pay $10 each for yet another tourist trap. The seals on the beach nearby were great though (and free).

We had dinner in a beach town called Cayucos, at “Skippers Restaurant”, the best diner we tried anywhere in the U.S. A very good family feel. They still asked me for ID when i ordered beer.

San Luis Obispo mission — nothing particularly fancy. It met my expectations — i didn’t think that it would look like Notre-Dame, but El’ad seemed a little disappointed. A simple catholic church and quiet gardens. Good for a relaxing half hour.

Santa Barbara — not an extremely fancy place, as some people might believe. Yet another beach town, bigger than the most, but very Californian. We already got this California vibe and were totally used to it. After relaxing on the beach there, we were completely ready to change the atmosphere. On the way out from Santa Barbara, we popped into Taco-Bell; it was my favourite junk-food ever, but El’ad hated it. He just can’t stand those tortillas.

Los-Angeles felt strangely welcoming. It took us some time to find El’ad’s parents’ friends’ home in Beverly Hills, but when we finally arrived, it was all very nice. A very Jewish house, with religious books in English and Hebrew, mezuzot, brakhot hanging on the walls, ritual handwashing ware, kosher food etc. It surely felt very warm. We spoke in a mix of English and Hebrew, told our lovely hosts about our trip experiences, refreshed our memory, and had some interesting reflections of our own. A little taste of Jewish life on the way back home …

California day 13

It’s the VE-DAY today (as celebrated in Russia) which is an important holiday, because we kicked some Nazi ass back in nineteen forty five.

Not much to tell about the trip today, as it was mostly driving and views. We started our journey south, back to LA through the west coast and Big Sur. When we left SF and moved into its suburbs we finally experienced the famous Bay Area fog — the visibility was indeed pretty bad and we had to drive carefully.

We stopped at Santa Cruz for a great pizza and headed further on HWY 1. Quiet clean beaches, trees, hills etc.

Monterey is a tranquil beach community with happy children and very clean streets, but there was nothing that we were particularly interested to see. We decided to try the world-famous 17-Mile Drive. The entrance costs quite a few dollars (don’t remember how many exactly…); is it worth it? Well, the nature there is somewhat more unique than most of the west coast and it is pretty well-preserved, but it’s 17 miles! Which is long, considering the 25 mph speed limit. So except for a few nice places to shoot photos, there’s nothing very special.

We slept at the Big Sur Campground — very friendly place, $20 per car per night. There we decided to throw a spontaneous Bar-B-Q, got us some wood, burgers, sausages and marshmallows. It came out very well. We also had a friendly conversations with some girls at a site next to ours and i guessed that they spoke Czech and Polish.

The 22:00 curfew was obeyed perfectly there. Just amazing.

California day 12

We decided to stay another day in SF, but move to a different hotel — the lovable Travelodge. Should have done it in the first place — much cheaper and not that bad at all.

Not much to tell … a had-to-be-there thing? Well, we saw the world-famous Coit tower, but didn’t go up ($5 tourist trap) and took some walks through the neighbourhoods, the world-famous crookedest street in the world — Lombard St., and we took a ride on the world-famous cable car ($3!!) Took some pics too.

Lunch at the China Town. It is indeed all very Chinese — the people, the food, the trucks, the advertising. We dined at a place that was described in National Geographic’s Traveler magazine and it was exactly as described — they didn’t speak English, there was no style, design, or, for that matter, clean tables and we had no idea what are we eating except that it was all very tasty and filling and cost just $5.

Later i dragged the tired El’ad to True Sake, a store i read about in a magazine placed in our hotel room. I learned a lot about sake there — why it is better cold, what are the different types of rice it is made from etc., but forgot most of it. The good idea that Beau, the store owner, had was to put labels on all bottles that recommend the sakes according to buyer’s taste in food, wine and beer. There was a lot to choose from, hundreds of different brands; eventually i chose Toranoko, the one recommended for lovers of dark ales and semi-dry white wines, with green apples flavour, which describes me perfectly.

After some rest in the hotel we took a look at the nearby Japan town, which was much more quiet and clean than its Chinese cousin, but also a lot more American. There we had a good Japanese dinner and i also tasted Suishin, a sake which i wanted to buy at the store, but didn’t and it was indeed good. I have a reason to go back to SF now.

Above the restaurant we noticed a Japanese karaoke club, which of course was very interesting for me, but a little less so to El’ad. I insisted on checking it out; the nice j-hostess said that the evenings begin at 22:30 (finally, some normality!) and they play both Western and Asian music, and i decided that i really want it. I still don’t understand why El’ad wasn’t so excited, he seems to be much more interested in both nightclubbing and j-girls than me. After some more rest at the hotel (it took me an hour to get Roz out of bed) we finally came there, seeing the amazing Hummer limo on the way. There was, indeed a lot of Asian music in the beginning, and some bishonen sang three Lifehouse songs in a row. We will probably never understand the Japanese’ taste in music (and the French’s, for that matter.) Eventually i sang Beatles’ “Come Together”, which came out really great, my voice was in a surprisingly good shape and some j-girls that were sitting next to us asked me about it. But it didn’t develop. I quietly noted to myself that i’m content to have the potential. If i only had a way to pass it to El’ad. We went back pretty drunk, after a few cocktails, a healthy dose of Bishonen sake, and a bottle of Bud light, which was obviously horrible, but i had to taste it sooner or later.

California day 11

So, first things thirst — we ordered room service! A nice Japanese (or Chinese?) guy brought us our “Golden Gate Eggs and Sausage”. And a fresh apple.

Then the tourist public transportation ticket, which at $15 for three days is still a robbery. Elad lost his shortly afterwards.

Then — to fisherman’s wharf, the world-famous Pier 39. Probably the nicest tourist trap in the world. There are charming Hawaiian Pearls salespeople (who are actually Vietnamese, but who cares); i bought one for Hadar. Very simple and beautiful. And the world-famous sea lions, of course.

We rented a bike, to bike The Bridge. The way to Sausalito was very easy, thanks to the lucky winds. We dined at a fine restaurant there, except that the Guiness pint that El’ad ordered was almost hot. Then, a surprise: it’s impossible to take the ferry back, because no bikes were allowed at that particular time. So we had to go all the way back, and by a total coincidence it became my first mountain biking trip, which was hard, but rewarding. When we returneed the bikes, the receptionist, noticing our names, asked “Ma shlomkhem, El’ad ve-Amir?” and then explained us in friendly Hebrew that there’s an unwritten agreement between SFPD and the petty street criminals — they don’t trouble the tourists and the police doesn’t trouble them. This free spirit of San Francisco is everywhere; i heard that in NYC, ever since Giuliani came, it’s just the other way around.

In the evening we headed to the gay center, Castro; it was, as always, too late (we still don’t learn!), so we just saw the huge Rainbow flag, a lot of dyke couples and a Yossi & Jagger poster in a gay-porn DVD shop and also grabbed a delicious slice of gay pizza and good American beer called Red Hook.

California day 10

The last day in Yosemite. We love this place. The camping is peaceful, the waterfalls are breathtaking, and all those cute squirrels everywhere.

Before leaving to San Francisco, we went to Vernal Falls. Everyone warned us that we’ll get wet, but we just went on. The climb was hard and then those terrible drops from the waterfall were very disturbing, and when we had to decide whether to go on to Nevada Falls or go back down, we went on. I’ve got to admit, though, that i felt with El’ad like Hadar feels with me — El’ad went faster than me and i needed more rest. So OK, he’s in better shape than me, but he’s supposed to be laid back! How many times i have to remind him that?

Anyway, after that ordeal we rested a little and went back down on a different path. We took some very impressive pictures there. The waterfalls, the waterfalls…

And then the long way to San Francisco. I drove those 3+ hours. Where Yosemite National Park ends, Stanislaus National Forest begins, and i, knowing some Latin, understood that a Park is something more preserved and a Forest is just a forest. But it’s still national. The transition from park to forest to just a bunch of hills and then to the usual American sprawl was very gradual. A little before San Francisco i made a very silly mistake — attempted changing lanes without looking at the dead zone and almost crashed the car. But only almost. The car into which i almost crashed already had some bumps in it. But i still learned my lesson well.

Driving inside SF is very hard. All those strange angles between Market St. and the numbered streets are very confusing with unusual traffic lights, one-way streets etc. Good thing the hotel was close to the highway. We stayed in Holiday Inn Civic Center and they are complete thiefs. The parking is fucking $25 a day! And the hotel is not really that good.

At 22:00 we went out to take a look at the city. Hey, we never learn — no-one goes out so late in USA. There were a lot of homeless and drug dealers on the streets, but they didn’t harrass us. At least we found an Internet cafe. Which was still very expensive.

The impression, however, is that SF is the closest i’ve seen yet to a real, that is, European city. But it’s still very American with these srtaight streets.



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