35 – Italy, cheesecake, and love

 

One morning in Tel Aviv I slowed my steps past an outdoor cafe to get a better look at some men. That is, what they were eating. Cheesecake.

 

NY-style baked cheesecake is a rare find in Israel. Options are usually either a sweet, creamy, unbaked concoction or a too-sweet baked-but-cake-y textured variety. Neither worthy, in my humble opinion.

The men watched me slow my pace, scrutinize the half eaten slice, and enter the tiny shop. I peered at the slices in the case. It was baked and didn’t look like the “cake-y” variety. I take this cheesecake quest seriously.

Exiting the shop, I Good morning‘d  the 3 at the table and asked about the cheesecake. They confirmed that it was worthy of a try so I said I’d return, thanked them and went my way.

An hour and a half later, I found them still there.  It was nice to be seen, and greeted. I ordered coffee with the cheesecake, hoping the effort would be beneficial on 2 counts: cheesecake heaven + conversation and potential friendships.

I’m always hoping to “pick-up” potential friendships and (Hebrew)conversation. When people are friendly enough for brief interaction and SEEM normal (safe), I peek through that partially open door with words and questions.

I hope I’m open and friendly, without being foolhardy or seeming needy. A few of my friends here are people I “picked up” in similar scenarios, a .0?% of all the conversations I’ve had on the streets, shops, and hiking trails. But the tiny minority who are interested in friendship reinforce my effort. If I talk with 50 and come away with one who becomes a resource for places and people in Israel or more Hebrew practice conversations or best of all, a friend to meet for coffee . . . Terrific.

The men left me to myself to savor perfect coffee and 1/2 of the slice, which was not a disappointment.  As always I eavesdropped to pick up whatever snippets of words I could catch. Finally, the one who had first spoken to me initially asked how it was, talked with me a bit, introduced the others, and said they’re there every Friday morning. I’ll return in two weeks when I’m next in town on a Friday and hope they have patience for my level of Hebrew.

I share the story because carefully, sometimes, it’s really OK to talk to strangers. Who doesn’t want more friends?

“Its harder to make new friends as we age.”

That saying has followed me around for a decade of birthdays. I’m a better friend now than when I was younger, and so think it should be easier.  I’m certain that I’m a better person.

a “quiet” mid-afternoon

However, the busy sidewalk cafe’s that fill the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv trigger loneliness within me. I wonder if it’s also a trigger for others.

Groups of friends afternoons and evenings, laughing, every age range and gender mix, sharing great looking food, leaning into each other’s stories, standing to hug as others arrive or leave. . . some are Birthday parties or other obvious celebrations, but mostly friends sharing a meal.

If I decide to eat there because the food looks great, I wrestle with having to chose one item.  If “we” were a group we could order-to-share, which is as Israeli as the Star of David.

Many restaurants serve an array of appetizers/salad-y dishes to groups, with certain orders. I love that variety and taste adventure. Sharing a (typically huge and substantial) salad is accepted practice, but it takes 2 or more to share! I eat half, and bring the rest home for another meal.  It’s fine, but not the same.

What to do about the alone feelings when passing these restaurants?

  1. Accept the situation as it is:  I moved half-way around the world, 8-10 time zones away from my precious, closest friends with shared history.
  2. Appreciate their fun: While resentment is always an option, not a tiny part of me resents what they have. I absolutely hope they are as happy as they appear, savoring each other and their moments. It brings a smile to my face and my loneliness flees when I step out of my own feelings to enjoy their happiness.
  3. I am reminded of my own precious moments of camaraderie.
  4. I can’t help but wonder: What sorrows balance these moments for them? I can only imagine the struggles of their lives, and would not trade my problems for anyone else’s.

Recently, a friend explained that these are relationships from army service or college days.  Israel’s size, culture, typical family and friends’ proximity, and the era of electronic connections make keeping friendships a different experience than the many lost contacts of my school days and (too)many moves. My friend explained that the impenetrable shared history of these connections make my hope to be invited-in to meet their friends pure fantasy.  Of course there must be exceptions to the rule, but not (yet?) in my experience, so understanding this cultural perspective helps.

After drafting the above, I took a walk to get out of the apartment for the first time all day.  As always, I asked God to set me where I belong, if anywhere. I passed many cafes, studied menus, was discouraged by too much cigarette smoke (more on that later) and whatever other intangibles kept me walking.

Having given up, I passed a cafe on a corner with the aroma of freshly-baked pastry and coffee, instead of cigarette smoke. Two women approached the table beside me, pulled over another chair and asked for my extra chair; I offered to move so they could push the tables together for a group. That opened conversation with the mother, about my age.  By the time her husband and adult daughters had settled in, she’d asked for my contact information to talk again.

I LOVE IT when they ask for mine, since 99% of the time I’m initiating. When I left, she reminded me to be sure to call.  Wow!

I walked home sweetly melancholy because her openness and kindness were a special treat, better even than the coffee and warm chocolate croissant.

Chance encounters? Friendly smiles.  Love is a muscle, to be nourished and exercised and stretched.

what do you think?


These days I’m loving Niki Haley. But hoping she has Secret Service security, given her UN position and, her courageous words. But will anyone listen? Will you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv8Hqlubst4&sns=em and the transcript: https://usun.state.gov/remarks/7678


A week in Italy included 3 days in Rome, 3 in Florence, and 2 in Venice.

Michelangelo’s David. What a guy. Florence

A few Predictable and some Surprising highlights:

Predictable:  Vatican art, Madame Butterfly opera in a historic church, getting lost in spaghetti-grid streets that change names every block, more art, concert of familiar Renaissance classics with orchestra + opera in era costumes and wigs, an impossibly awful tour guide, more art, once-in-a-lifetime-perfection cannoli and a pizza slice, 3 tenors in another great-acoustics-church concert, Synagogues and Jewish History, perfect cup of coffee, genuine gelato. . .

 

St. Peters’ Basilica – Vatican

Smoking was everywhere.  Predictable, but still I’m surprised

Italy’s streets were full of smokers, seemingly always up-wind from me on sidewalks and outdoor cafe seating. How can they taste the food? I’m especially surprised to see teens and young adults smoking, given the health campaigns of my own youth plus the cost plus the restrictions on smokers in pubic.

Addictive.  Expensive: health, social, financial. (Smoking is prohibited indoors in Israel but the outdoor seating is usually fair game. As an aside, several months ago I had an appealing conversation with a very interesting Israeli man…until he lit up.

Back to Italy’s Predictable Highlights:– Rome and Florence were great but I enjoyed Venice most because of the water, and rode the ferries for hours.  Water restores me.

Surprises…unpredictables in Italy:

In a perfectly respectable neighborhood, this caught my eye:

condom vending machine

The paintings below were in Florence’s Uffizi gallery – one of several museums that was worth the trip for me.  Their stories caught my attention: The first is one of a set of 4 war scenes painted for someone-important’s bedroom.

War scenes in your bedroom?!?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/18/feng-shui-bedroom_n_6888646.html

And this one is of the artist’s lover, a “fallen” Catholic Nun, and the baby (not the angel) is their “love child”

 

No Wine Appreciation.  That is surprising for some  Sorry. I don’t like wine.

 

Have I led a sheltered life?  I had no idea bodies could be made VISIBLE in coffins, in Churches, for centuries!!

Antoninus Pierozzi 1389-1459 Archbishop of Florence & Patron of Diocese

The lyrical Italian accenta felta likea Ia wasa ona a movie seta the entirea weeka.

I appreciate a wide range of art.  These handsome Italian police were lovely to behold.  There were others, but I’ll subject you to only one photo.

My natural “foreign language” response  is Hebrew.  I could feel High School Spanish from so long ago trying to surface in the midst of its cousin-language, but the Spanish is too deeply buried under these years of Hebrew. Alas.

I was pained to see how much easier Italian would be to learn. The letters afford easy “reading” and so many words on signs were guessable.

“No thank you” = “לא תודה רבה”

It seemed tour-guides and vendors were soliciting everyone, everywhere. I watched them guess at tourists’ language and then offer Spanish, English, French, Russian … but never Hebrew! I admit it was fun seeing them stop in their tracks, and tilt their heads to my “לא תודה רבה”.

However, one waiter asked where I’m from and then spoke Hebrew with me!  He was darling, oh so young and handsome. Throughout the trip, I interrupted strangers speaking Hebrew to introduce myself and enjoyed those conversations, even collecting contact information for future follow up.

have you been to Italy? what did I miss?


ADVISE Regrets: to accept or reject?

Back in the day, a university career counselor advised me against pursuing a double major: Spanish + Speech Pathology. His rationale was that I could not hope to master a 2nd language without living in a Spanish speaking country at least one year. Makes sense.

But, for the 17-year-old I was, the thought of being a foreign exchange student felt overwhelming. Logistically, it could have been an option for me, but I didn’t feel even remotely capable, and so accepted his advice to drop the Spanish goal.

In hindsight, had I pursued the double major, a few years of maturity might have generated the confidence and sense of adventure for an exchange program. Who knows?

That advise I accepted, regretfully.  And I don’t have the heart to even begin to list of the times I rejected advice which later, oh-so-desperately, I wished I’d accepted.

Is it some sort of “Murphy’s Law” to establish a bizarre equilibrium between bad-advise-embraced and good-advise-rejected? Probably not, but seems so.

I remind myself that the outcome of the choices that we do not make can only be imagined.

There’s no way to know what might have been. Speculation, logic, values, history, and whatever else, try as they may, but rarely is there certainty whether we missed better or worse outcomes in the “what if’s?”. Would we have dodged a bullet or bought the winning lottery ticket? Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors (1998) brilliantly demonstrates the phenomenon of not knowing outcomes other than the life we live. 

your thoughts?


Purim in Tel Aviv

Purim is celebration of deliverance (from extermination) of the Jewish population of the Persian Empire in 478 BCE. It honors the courage of Queen Esther. And is a happy costume holiday (see also Jerusalem’s Purim in blog #15)

everyone gets in on the act

Randomly, I stumbled upon this neighborhood children’s event, singing a favorite Purim song

and Hokey-Pokey!!!  (why do some videos distort horizontally and others don’t!?!)

All in all, Tel Aviv’s streets the day before, during, and after Purim are as entertaining as Jerusalem’s.


wanting to be loved

in my friendships, I want to be loved, included, pursued even…

but more than wanting others to love me is my yearning to be a conduit of God’s love

my choices boil down to:

  1. basing my actions on earning someone’s love, respect, or being wanted  OR
  2. opening my life and love to others, and hopes of stimulating them to open their heart toward God, beyond the bad press, stereotypes, abuses, and whatever else stands in the way

the anchoring of my heart into this passion has kept me from turning myself into a pretzel for approval-love

it frees me to be who I am

your thoughts? please take the time to tell me about yourself

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