ChannahbooKah New York!

It was so cold last year. Bitter cold, as I walk down Lexington Avenue towards Grand Central Station to get my train home to Wall Street. I had been at a Latino bar salsa dancing with a devilishly handsome Dominican who kept smacking my ass for not letting him lead, “C-Hannah you have to let me be the man.” Not one of my strongest suits. So after 2 hours and a number of whiskey sours I decided to call it a night, refused a walk home and jumped out into the cold night air.

Such a companion was New York that I could have walked the streets of Manhattan all the way downtown by myself and not minded. The smells, the sounds and the sites of the city fed me through the cold and somehow, and I know this is a big fat cliché, I never felt alone. Outside in the cold night air I felt like I had a companion by my side, which is probably why I had ventured out on the first night of Chanukah in the first place. Because the thought of being alone on Chanukah, well that scared me.

It would be the first year in a long time where I would not automatically be expected to be lighting candles with a certain someone… The wax stained menorah would have a new set of wax on it this year and I would not be lighting the candles. I did not even have a menorah. Religious artifacts were not really on my priority list while packing and now I was so sad to think that I may not light the candles at all. “Whatever it is just a dumb tradition” I told myself. But that yearning for days gone by… well that was just silly because they were long gone. This year would be a new tradition, a tradition of salsa dancing!

I had planned to treat my senses with a walk through the market in Grand Central. I could have stood in that market for hours if I had not been afraid of being trampled over by the overly eager holiday shoppers. The little patisserie with its delicate cakes all lined up so pretty with frosting of yellows and pinks and the flower and Muppet shaped icing. The chocolate store where the owner, although a “connoisseur” of chocolate, had somehow never experienced chili chocolate and would ask me to describe in detail the taste and texture so that he could remake it. Everything about that place lighted my senses and lifted my mood.

The Lexington entrance was in site and I began to strut towards the lights when a little boy dressed in black, with a velvet yamukah and paiyot called out to me, “Are you Jewish?” I recognized this kid. I had heard of the Chabad guys stood on street corners before Chanukah giving out menorahs and dreidels, but I had never seen them. When I told my friend that I was not doing Chanukah this year because I did not have a menorah her response was, “Find the Chabad guys!” But after a few disappointing trips down to Time Square only to find that I had just missed them, I gave up and decided that I was never going to get my menorah.

Only here I was in the middle of Lexington Avenue, in the middle of the night, being asked by one of these elusive (well they were elusive to me!) Chabad kids if I was Jewish, “I most certainly am!” I replied. And so he handed me a menorah, and candles and a dreidel and some chocolate money and he blessed me. And in return I lit my candles every night of the 8 nights, alone and with company.

And now today, on the first night of Chanukah I find myself remembering last year with somewhat of a melancholy feeling, because New York was my love and although I know we had to part, I will love her always and who knows what may happen in the future… New York I love you. ChannahbooKah everyone!

 

eat me

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A love story

We all want a love story. We all want to emulate that romance novel heroine and be rescued or ravaged by our hero. I look around my friends, people I know, people I just know of and I see these stories; the tales of loves lost and seemingly regained over time in another lifetime because of some form of serendipity or fate. Sometimes when I hear of these stories I smile with the same smile of enjoyment, entertainment along with a pinch of envy that I do when I see some chick flick when the hero and heroine walk off into the sunset together, while at the same time thinking, ‘it all seems very nice, but come on! what is the ‘real’ story?’

I never thought of myself as such a cynic. I thought I was open to the world,  but I realise that that might not just be untrue but also unfair to suggest that I am one or the other: either open to the world or a cynic. And perhaps I am neither. Perhaps my view of the world is a case of nature versus nurture.

It is in our nature as humans to crave companionship, to mate. It is in my nurture to surround myself with a warm and welcoming family just as the one I had. It is in my nature to emulate the world around me and the world around me is all talk of this deep, soul shattering, life defining love, while I was nurtured in the arms of a smooth and comfortable love built on mutual respect and mutual attraction and a joint vision for their future. There were no fireworks or lightning bolts. There was light on and off, before my parents met and when they got married. To be clear, my parents love each other deeply, 40 years deeply, but their love did not stem from the tales of Danielle Steel or Jackie Collins, theirs was a meeting at a Jewish youth movement, an invitation to a birthday party, an engagement, a marriage and a family.

What is wrong with that? Why is that not enough? Why do we feel so inadequate if we don’t have a big love story? Most big love stories are doomed to fail. All the passion and crazy ups and downs are near impossible to contain into a stable relationship. Changing nappies and paying bills are hardly the things of romance novels. In fact that is usually where the lead character is standing, up to his/her knees in family poop, when they decide to run away and have a passionate affair with the sexy Latino dance instructor.

What are love stories then? The memories or stories we tell ourselves when we are knee-deep in poop? In that case can we all have experienced a love story at some point in our lives, it’s just the way you tell it? Or is this type of love saved only for the lucky few to experience that kind of love that never dies. (The cynic in me just vomited in her mouth a little).

It’s not just for women by the way. The guys I know, holding on to this one great love are actually far worse than my romance hungry girlfriends. These men use some love they once lost as an excuse for why they can not seem to meet anyone else, while in the same breath referring to these great loves as “spoilt bitches”, “psycho bitches from hell”, “evil cows”… Friend, get yourself some therapy and move on or grab a pair and try to win the “crazy bitch” back!

And while I can sit here and say that I have had at least one great love in my life, I would not necessarily say that that love was the product of a great love story. The two are very different. And when great love stories always seem tied in with the heartbreak of one of the protagonists or any of the characters unfortunate to be caught up in this whirlwind of said love story, it makes me wonder why is this something we would want to be a part of anyway! This being under the assumption that we have not already been apart of our own great love story and not yet realised it.

Yes I would like to be romanced, I am a girl. Yes I would like to feel like ours is this amazing love that could last through the ages, or at least until one of us dies. Yes I would like a man with passion, a man who excites me, but doesn’t abuse me. Yes I would like to run off into the sunset together, but still stop off on the way for happy hour with our mates. I love the idea of being able to tell our grandchildren the love story of how we met, but then to them our finding each other on Facebook will seem as romantic as my grandfather writing my grandmother love letter from the trenches.

The truth is, most of us do not have great love stories, but great loves… now I think everyone should have at least one of those!

This piece is dedicated to my beautiful friend, the ultimate romantic, who always believed in love through it all and whom I will admire for it forever. And I will treasure every email we shared through the love story of her life!
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A human’s worth

I don’t get paid enough for what I do!

I hear this all day long. I think I heard it all day long when I worked in London, but here in Israel it is a very real issue. How is it that a country (yes I am referring to Tel Aviv as the epitome of the entire country) can pay so little and yet rent prices continue to rise (Tel Aviv is now counted as one of the 19 most expensive cities in the world), drink prices continue to rise, food prices and travel expenses… In truth everything is going up while I see salaries either staying the same or going down! How can that be?

My father, one of the lucky few to be able to retire in this country (yes Dad I know this comes with its own financial strain!), came to me the other day and asked me what the average salary was and I said somewhere around 6-8000 NIS (yes I am sure I am aiming high) and he looked at me shock faced and blurted out, “Bruto or Neto??? How do people live on that?” The sad truth is most of them don’t. Most Israeli’s begin their month with a hefty minus in the bank and pay their bills in payments. I still cannot get my head around how those same people have families and pay for their children’s education… I mean where are the savings?

Some companies will offer a company saving scheme. It all sounds great! You put in a share of your salary, they put in double and in 6 years you get your hands on a nice wad of cash! The issue is that once you sign up you suddenly notice next months paycheck is considerably lighter and as comforting as it is to know you have savings, it is somewhat worrying when you consider how you are going to pay rent and pay for your annual service on your car which must be done this month, and still be able to buy food!

How do people with families to support do it? How can a single person like me, whose Grandparents weren’t just given land or property in Israel in 1948, ever hope to get on the property ladder!

Where is the support of the workers of Israel? Where does the average office worker see their rights being defended when sick days come out of your paycheck or your holidays. Sick days!! That really knocked me for a loop! We don’t get sick days??? Seriously! “You do get sick days, only you don’t get paid for the first sick day you take, sick days 2-3 you get like 33% of your salary and days 4 and onwards you get 75%” Are you fucking shitting me! So the answer is we all get sick, we all come into the office sick, because at least we are getting paid to be there, we all make each other sick and then what happens to productivity? Yup… Well actually in fairness it probably amounts to the worth of the salary we are given.

But what are we worth? In a country that often spits you out while sucking you back in at the same time, it is difficult to see your value. Bigger picture is it cannot stay this way, I mean at some stage the country will not be able to sustain the kind of debt that is amounting… I am clearly no economist, but logically it makes no sense to me. At some stage the government will have to step in and set a minimum wage. At some stage they will have to implement a rule for workers that if you have to swipe in then you should get overtime. The should give fully paid sick days. They should impose a set rise in salaries per year dependant on the rise in the interest rate which has nothing to do with any further raise you may deserve from your company due to promotion or simply because (dare I say it) you deserve to be above minimum wage!

I am sure all this falls on deaf ears and is just another rant with a futile end, but it would be nice if we in Israel realised our own worth and demanded from our State and from our employers to be valued!

Rant over!

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Dreaming of Benjamin

I do not know if it was a dream, or a memory or maybe even a bit of both. But I remember remembering that time, that place and I struggle to this day to remember how it felt. I was young. Young enough that my grey uniform with the purple, red, green and blue tie felt new. My braids hung down to my chest as I bent forward and straightened my skirt and sweater after running upstairs. I stood in front of the large beige door, reached up my hand towards the golden handle and I let myself in.

Orange light bounced around the room, off the tinted mirrors and into my eyes as I stepped out onto the plush wool carpet at my foot. Usually I would knock before walking into mum and dad’s room, but for some reason I did not. I saw myself in the wall of mirrors tinted bronze, my pale skin seemed dark, my hair shone from the light which reflected off it and for a moment I took in the vision of myself in my school uniform and felt that excitement of the first moment you put on your first school uniform again though the initial feeling had not been that long before.

Moments passed before I saw the reflection of my mother sitting on the corner of the large double bed, printed with an orange flowered bedspread. Usually my mother would be sat upright in bed leaning against the headboard waiting for a morning cuddle; or she would be walking out of her bathroom in a robe heading to her mirrored closet to pick out her clothes; or she would be sat at the mirror, hairdryer in hand blowing her short crop while squinting back at herself in the mirror, the air blowing into her face. Never had I seen mum sat at the corner of her bed. As I looked I saw she was bent over and swaying a little. The room was silent.

I walked around the bed towards her and as I turned to her, the light shining through the curtains lighting he brown hair auburn I saw her holding a swaddled baby. I looked at her arms for a long time, although I never saw the baby’s face I knew it was Benjamin. My year old brother, swaddled in a blanket, resting between my mother’s arms as she slowly rocked him. I smiled for a moment at the sight of my mother and my baby brother, and reached out my hand to pull back the cover to see his face.

As I reached out my hand I heard my mother quiver out a sigh, it was the same breath I would make in between sobs into her chest when she would comfort me as I cried. I turned to look up at her face and sat down by her side and saw my mother’s face distorted in pain, her eyes glazed through tears. I placed my hand on her back and though she was almost silent I could feel her sobs and though it seemed like she was still I could feel her rock. Her cheeks were red and wet and tears dripped down towards her full arms and at that moment I knew that Benjamin had died.

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Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

You ever have those days when you just want to punch everyone in the face? I feel like that today…

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Strange Bedfellows

I am already missing taking my laptop to bed with me… and yes I realise how sad that sounds.

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Recap: New York

I have been home now a month and a half. It does not seem that long and yet New York feels like a decade ago, like a two week vacation long gone. I have to remind myself that this was no two week vacation. I lived New York. I loved New York. My leaving may have been an inevitable, but I never want her to forget how much I loved her.
A period of time in my life that I will treasure always and always write about to never let myself forget. Who could forget New York? It seems crazy right! But I am not talking about New York, the place; the tall tall buildings, the wide roads packed with tourists, the yellow cabs buzzing around the city. No I am talking about MY New York, what she did for me, how she made me feel. How from the moment we were reintroduced that September morning I knew I would never feel alone while I was with her. And that is true. Through all the ups and downs of my time there, through the great work nightmare to the man debate and all the little dramas in between New York was constant. Through a time in my life, and possibly the first time in my life when I just wanted to be left the fuck alone, New York lay her palm on my back, giving me my space to go forward but letting me know that she was always there if I needed her to fall back on. I guess at the same time Israel was doing the same thing.

So when the time came to make the decision to stay or go it was not easy. Should I stay in a job that brought me to tears every day, for the sake of New York? Should I carry on going further into debt because I did not want to let her go? And what about the benefits of going back to Israel? It had been a long cold winter in New York and I could definitely do with some thawing out. I wrote lists. I wrote journals. I talked it through with everyone. I was trying to find a way to stay, a reason to stay, a way to stay, but at some point I had to give her one last hug goodbye and jump back into the open arms of Israel.
I miss her. There is a part of me that wonders what is New York doing now? She’s probably dressed up fabulous and running all over town ending the night a hot mess in a diner. I smile when I think about her, knowing that her hand will still be resting in the curve of my back if I ever need to fall back.
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