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It's the End of the World as We Know It. and i feel fine.

ISRAEL | Friday, 30 October 2009 | Views [404]

Raindrops seep through the window panes, soaking harbingers of melancholy directing my keystrokes. Gone is the din of traffic rushing by on the street below. Silent are the chattering sidewalks of flea market sales. Friday night is the start of Shabbot, and Tel Aviv is as shut down as the smallest towns of Iowa on a sunday afternoon. There are few shops or bars open, and the people quietly come and go to their families in the Sukkot shared taxis. And while the night calmly ends the hectic day, I am quietly comforting myself with hot tea and the softly pillowed heaven of my hotel bed.

The tour came not a moment too soon. Life has been teaching me some ungracefully difficult lessons in 2009. Autumn finds me destitute of heartsongs, and grappling for meaning amid the inevitable loneliness of big city life. I have made some grave mistakes this year, and survived each a little worse for wear. Mostly, I am searching for a place that feels like home again and a center in my self...the best satisfaction I find is a suitcase and a street full of strangers who smile as though we are friends.

We began in Denver- a been there, done that kind of town for me. We stayed right in the heart of downtown, desolate and left in the sole possession of the homeless after 6pm. The theater was a standard roadhouse; the crew was a real good crowd. We rolled up in a winded frenzy of haphazard preparation for four completely separate shows. Going back and forth between using our entire rig at home and then only the bag and bucket essentials for overseas, the entire month of October was clucking out details for putting up to 8 different dance pieces on stage in two months. In the middle of all of this, my former boss parted ways with the company, and an Interim Director came in to take up the reins. I blinked and Denver was a memory, and next thing I know, I am throwing on my running shoes and testing out the bikeway of the Puget Sound.

Seattle was a new city for me. Only a transit point for further ventures in the past, it was nice to actually see what everyone is talking about when they wax poetic about Pacific jewel by the sea. More sharp on the beat than Portland, Seattle is closely linked to the image of it's Starbucks progeny. At some point, it was a small little harbor town that had a big heart, small budget, and creativity to burn; but now, it is accomplished, applauded, and solidly ensconced in the higher income bracket security of middle age. It's sophisticated grace woefully leaves the hippie ideals behind, but the polished finish is elegantly charismatic in it's age. Pike's place was a strange little tourist joint of local shops and market stands dripping fresh with produce. I can't say I understand the allure of standing for an hour to see a man throw a fish across the room, but it was amusing anyway. The theater was a mock-broadway playhouse, and shows wrote themselves in record time- leaving the crew enough time to have a special evening of sushi, sake, and celebration. The most wonderful evening I have had in a long time. Suddenly, the day anticipated for a solid year had arrived- our flight to Tel Aviv!

I have been slowly recovering from the normal residual marathon pain. I could have pulled some ligaments in my ankle that have kept me hobbling at a reduced gusto for the past two weeks. Unfortunately, the same mental instability that enables me to run 26.2 miles also goads me into running perhaps a bit sooner than a doctor would advise (but we all have our vices and our demons to follow, don't we?) Though the 19 hours of interminable travel helped me rest and heal a bit, I could not wait to let myself free in a new city, new country, new opportunity to BREATHE. The sun set at 4:30pm, and we plunged into the darkness of the city excited and tired and pretty confused about what time zone the spinning earth had spit us out in. I went to dinner with several dancers, grateful for the company and the navigators to follow.

The first characteristic to strike our fancy was the beautiful inhabitants of the city. Tel Aviv has an excessively blessed population of supermodels. Only they are so relaxed and beachside in attitude that they charm you into thinking that they are just normal people too. We feasted our eyes on the sidewalks, our id on the wine, and our stomachs on the mediterranean splendor- a wonderful acclimation to our home for the next five days.

The next day I woke up early and took to the beach for a six mile run. Feeling the wind in my lungs, the joy in my heart, and the exhilaration of living once again- I drank in the waterfronts. I love nothing more than racing the water to find my soul- the ocean, the river, the lake back home. I am not picky about the source but the feeling is the same- to follow wherever it leads until I can run no more.

Breakfast in the hotel was an amazing cornucopia of gastronomic delights. The most peculiar aspect to adapt to in Israel is the consistent lack of meat and cheese together, mostly accomplished by avoiding serving meat at meals. Kosher is a strange code of ethical digestion that baffles the gentile mind, but a fun game to play when immersed in the scene is trying to figure out the rules without asking.
My day of exploration had welcome company in Ale P- a dancer friend who shares a very similar essence of traveling and is not afraid to be lost in strange cities with my sense for direction. We twisted and turned with the streets until we found "the sites" without much attention to the tourist tracks.
The Hacarmel Market beckoned with shiny trinkets and hawking voices. Carts showcased everything from fish with eyes reflecting the terror of the hook to vegetables smelling faintly of the trees, from cheap Israeli militial souveniers to elegantly woven histories of Judaica- for once the world did not seem to be encompassed in the merchandising of Cost Plus World Market! My favorite part of the country is the constant smell of fresh baked breads wherever you go. Here, the bagel is the king of the land- texas sized bubbles of fresh fluffy comfort food- low carb diets beware!!!
We meandered from shop to shop amazed at the ingenuity and handiwork displayed. People here take so much pride in their ability to create. We found ourselves all the way to the old port city of Jaffa- the original city built as an Arabic stronghold. Here, I felt Morrocco revisit my memory. Cobblestone streets and staircases as narrow as the shoulder's width twisted up and down in a dance between sun and sea. Decorative etchings added an air of mystery to every building protectively huddled in secret history. The big attraction here is some archeological dig sites leaking artifacts as old as time, but we found more delight in harrassing the fiberglass Napoleons announcing TOURIST SITES than in intellectual pursuits. As the sun started it's nightly tryst with the sea, we made our way back along the silky sanded beaches watching the surfers fail to catch any real hang time in the shallow waves. The beaches are lined with adventurous playgrounds for the young and old, and the real friendship begins when you realize that the person you are wandering with is just as big a kid as you are inside. :)
We climbed and swung, trampled and explored; we laughed more than the children. After a wonderful modest dinner served by the uncles of Men, we retreated to watch the moon glitter against the waves at a beachside bar and tried our best to understand the crazy culture gap between us and the people speaking tongues around us.

Israelis are a tough society to crack. Faced with years of disenfranchised existence, they have a very strong bond with each other and a general ambivalence towards the "other." The lack of interest is not necessarily unfriendly- they speak many languages and will easily switch into english to communicate and ease your exchange. Instead, there is just a wary acceptance that people from other cultures are welcome to visit, they will just never penetrate the understanding of what they have survived. Perhaps from constantly fighting to keep what is theirs. Perhaps from keeping their culture alive for thousands of years living among invading regimes... whatever the source of the distance, there is no real warmth of non-verbal communication, no shared humor waiting for a laugh. Friendships must be earned, and I have a feeling only possible from generations of living side by side.
The city itself is built with the staid and simple Bauhaus architecture. Everything is white cement, lines are clean and utilitarian at best. I recognize the style as a reputable decision, but the effect brings to mind a people who have lost interest in embellishment because their cities are historically destroyed at regular intervals. There is a sadness to the city streets. Yet the skyline view comes together as a glowing silky Pearl. Streets signs in Hebrew are also in English to make navigating more maneagable for everyone. It all comes together to make completely sense and work in the most wonderful way, but I cannot say that the memory will warm my heart for years to come.

We settled in to working days. The Opera house is a fine complex of stages built with every technical convenience in mind. The work is easy going and the crew is superb; however, they seem to have so much going on that they are impossible to find. Something that normally takes ten minutes will take half an hour- ten minutes to find them, five minutes for them to come to stage, five minutes to explain what needs to be done, and then ten minutes to do the work. Frustrating, but definitely not the worst situation I have found. The week has gone by insanely quickly. Tel Aviv feels enough like home to walk the streets without a map and revisit the same establishment to find that the clerk already knows I like my frozen yogurt with only blueberries at their stand.
But always, at the forefront, is that I am not to understand.
Tomorrow, we have a tech with a very famous Israeli choreographer rumored to be both wildly charismatic and insanely demanding at task. Then after the show we immediately strike-drive to Jerusalem. One week left in Israel, and two more cities to open my mind...I can't wait to see how they will change my heart.
Shabbot Shalom, and goodnight.

Tags: emily predny, israel, jaffa, predny, tel aviv

 

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