A Long Way to Go for Lunch

Rather than wait for you to ask the obvious question, “Who’s this guy Perry?” perhaps I’d better explain. Many years ago, before Barbara and I got married, she was living by herself in an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. And there was this young kid in the neighborhood who took a liking to her and kept an eye out – just in case. We invited him to our wedding, and, on and off over the years, he and Barbara kept in touch. He did switch neighborhoods, but he never left the borough of Queens, while we were gallivanting all over New Jersey, finally making the big decision to come to The Land.

Five years ago, after years of saving his pennies in a big glass jar, Perry had put aside enough money to pay for his fare over here. His greatest desire at the time was to ride a camel, something you don’t get to do often in Maspeth. The deal I made with Barbara was that, sure he can stay here; no problem. I’ll be happy to feed him and make my best conversation, but you’re going to be the tour guide. That worked; everyone was happy. In case you need to know: there are a number of these even-toed ungulates on duty between here and Jericho, should a camel ride be on your “bucket list” (an expression sure to join the list of catch-phrases headed for merciful extinction). Continue reading

Music in the Night

It was several years ago when this incident occurred. I was on the Light Rail, probably heading to the shuk for my weekly Thursday shopping excursion, when a European tourist asked me a question. (I somehow have an “English-spoken-here” look about me that any world traveler can recognize.) “How do I get to Old Town?”

Old town, old town, old town…… You could have heard my brain go into overdrive. Until, click. She means The Old City! Now I could help her with precise directions. I decided to make it simple. I didn’t ask her which Old City she wanted: the Christian tourists Old City, the Arab locals Old City, or the places where these days we Jews hang out. (Enter through the Jaffa Gate into the large plaza; hang a right past what’s called the Tower of David, past the Christian Visitors Centers and the Armenian shops; take the first left and snake your way around, down to the Cardo, and then you know where you are; or don’t take the first left, but continue past the Armenian churches, past the Zion Gate until you come to Chabad St., where you go left…)That’s really three separate destinations, even though The Old City is one fairly small area. Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 11: A Last Hurrah)

Shabbat was over, and the good ship Diadema was now steaming towards Marseille, the final port of call on the “AACI’s Marvelous Kosher Cruise” before we would return to Barcelona for the flight back home. It occurred to me that we were headed towards two very different versions of Marseilles: the politically correct city described in Wikipedia (the second largest French city, with a history going back 30,000 years, a major center for trade, industry, and tourism), or the less glamorous one described here (For many years, the busy port city of Marseille has suffered from a serious image problem. Dismissed for its down-at-heel reputation, urban decay and often alarming crime statistics, it’s been the black sheep of the Provençal coastline.) A very serious image problem indeed! Maybe that’s why there was so little interest among our cruise mates to head into the city, even though there is, by all accounts, a lot to see there. I can’t imagine what people expected to happen if we were to wander through Le Panier. Seasoned travelers have stated most emphatically that your chances of having your pocket picked are much greater in Rome or Barcelona, but who’s to say? Continue reading

Another Day in the Jordan Valley

Here’s a stumper for you: think of a place where you’d never ever want to live, and…… you can’t imagine why anybody else would want to live there – but…… you’re truly glad that somebody is living there. Are you ready for my answer: The Jordan Valley – not that far from where we are, a little bit east of Yerushalayim. And that’s where Shelley Brinn (along with tour guide Susie ben-David) was taking us on a Thursday when it was supposed to rain, but we caught a break, and it didn’t. Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 10: A Ship-Shape Shabbat)

There we were, safely back on board the Costa Diadema, which would set sail from Civitavecchia at 6PM. For most of the passengers on board, it would be another day at sea, getting on and off the ship at the port of Savona. But for us, the AACI’ers, it would be Shabbat, so, while we could get a tantalizing view of this old and picturesque port from the balcony of our cabin or the decks of the ship, we would remain on board until we arrived at Marseilles Sunday morning. We would have our meals, served buffet style, in a different restaurant on one of the upper decks (either walking or using one of the Shabbat elevators to get there), and the Shabbat prayer services would be held in an area that is normally a disco. And therein lies a tale. In this case, one related by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, one just too good not to tell his audience, and for me not to tell you.

It seems, he announced, that this was the second time that he was davening on Shabbat in a disco. Well, that got everyone’s attention real fast – as he, the master story teller, knew it would. Continue reading

Ezra’s Super Bowl Party

Maybe I should start off with the following anecdote that I think explains a lot about the topic at hand: My friend Michael was interviewing for a job with a local outfit – as is typical here, a start-up. This company has come up with some kind of metering device that, if I understand it correctly (no sure thing!), detects the amount of water in sewer pipes. For our purposes, it doesn‘t matter if you or I understand it exactly. The point is that they are trying to penetrate the American market big time, and that’s where my friend comes in. This was one of the few times when an Israeli company wouldn’t prefer to hire some hot-shot kid right out of the I.D.F., as opposed to Michael, even though he has ten times the knowledge and experience as the other guy. If nothing else, the men running the company figured out real quick that they needed someone who could chew the fat with the middle-age American engineers and officials who would be deciding whether to purchase a few of these meters on a trial basis. And that someone definitely was not going to be some twenty-two year old Israeli with passable English. If they wanted to talk to Americans, they’d better find an American.

Michael is an American from the mid-west. Michael is a 100%, genuine, certified, official good ol’ boy, complete with an impressive waist line and accent, the exact person you’d want to connect with similar folks back in Duluth or Des Moines. The job interviews were going well, and then an important question: “Do you watch the Super Bowl?” “Sure.” Continue reading

News of the Cruise (Part 9: Rome in a Day

It wasn’t always “this way.” Long, long ago when Barbara and I were DINKS(NM) – double income, no kids (no mortgage), we did a certain amount of traveling, and we did it on our own. The idea of going on an organized tour would have been the last thing on my mind. Even when we had fairly serious mishaps along the way – like having to travel around Spain in a stick shift car, which neither of us knew how to drive, became part of the adventure, the narrative we relate to friends today. Whatever happened, it was all good, at least in hindsight. Today? That’s a different story entirely.

These days, I am more than willing to let somebody else do all the planning: the itinerary, the accommodations, especially the part that deals with when and where we’re going to eat. Plus, if all goes well, I enjoy going around with other like-minded people. Yet, I am cognizant of the limitations of this approach, sometimes especially so. For instance, our day in Rome, Friday Sept 16. Continue reading