Monday, October 15, 2012

Seain' is Believing

 I love spending time on the shore, but cannot articulate how much I despise sand.  As a chunky guy, it's pretty incredible all of the places you can find sand hiding after a visit to the beach.  I don't know if you have a "least favorite" texture, but sand is without a doubt mine.  It probably stems from my dad using sandpaper to file down my hooves as a child since I hated wearing shoes just as much then as I do now.  ...but that's a different therapy session. 

Because of this disdain, I often find myself appreciating the sea from a distance.  However, also as a chunky guy everything is hotter by nature.  It's like having a built-in super-insulated jacket. Between that and the hot weather here (90 degrees today. It's mid-October. Say whaaat?) I was more than willing to overcome my sand phobia and enjoy the direct coastal breezes and insanely warm Mediterranean water.  More importantly, it's free.  And gorgeous. And less than a mile away. WIN.  Thus, I've found myself spending the vast majority of my time roaming around the coast and, of course, people-watching.  (Are you catching on that this hobby will probably be the overarching theme of my time in Israel/on earth.) There's just something about warm water and hot weather.  It's like there's a gravitational pull between these two elements and lunatics-- a magnetic attraction of sorts pulling society's worst creatures toward one of nature's best features. #poetry. Needless to say, spending countless hours on the beaches of one of the world's most celebrated "weird" cities has already provided me with enough material to write an entirely separate blog. 

One particular incident left my skin crawling...and almost detached.

On my first day, as soon as I completed my little Israel-by-rail tour, I dropped my luggage off at the hostel and immediately searched for the beach.  Less than ten minutes of walking later, the pristine blue waters of the Mediterranean emerged at the end of a Neve Tzedek alleyway.  I joined the masses, cringed, and plowed through the sand and waded through the water.  I was pig-in-mud-style stupid happy.  Not long after I remembered I'm white.  Like WHITE.  Downright pasty. The breeze was hiding how miserably hot it was, and how terribly burnt my skin had became after an hour of trodding through the sea.  I sat on a bench brushing every single grain of sand off my feet before I could put them back in my shoes/sleep at night.  Sitting there, looking like a monkey de-lousing himself, a man walked up to me and introduced himself.  He was Avi, and Avi was creepy.  One thing I had learned from almost every source concerning Israeli society was that you don't want to be a frier: someone who gives up too much information and appears to be remotely naive. I had been advised that if questioned, be frank and provide a minimum amount of details while seeming suspicious.  After his unwarranted introduction, which was alarming enough itself since Israeli's are supposed to be "rude" and aren't known for approaching random strangers without reason, the rest of the conversation went as follows.:

Avi: Where are you from?
Me:  The States.
Avi:  Why are you here?
Me:  School. 
Avi:  How long?
Me:  A while.
Avi: Where are you staying?
Me:  Nearby.
Avi: Want to live with me?
Avi:  I live at 11 Rehov Aordain (sp?--and yes, that's his real address in case find yourself in Tel Aviv, wondering what rape feels like), come visit any time and stay with me!
Me:  ________________ (<---- That's me. Lost for words. Walking away. Wondering how to yell "stranger danger" in Hebrew.)
Avi: Please visit! I want you to come share my house!

Clearly, Avi was code for Buffalo Bill and my epidermis looked like the hottest item at spring fashion week.

In other news, I've reached "molestable".  The diet is working!

Looking north: Tel Aviv's coastline from Jaffa.
Fortunately my time on Tel Aviv's waterfront has provided me with more than interactions with predators.  Yesterday was a lazy day.  Too hot for extensive exploring, I headed to a promenade and took a nap in a grassy area.  The sun starts to set around 4:45, and by 5:15 it completely disappears.  I awoke expecting a spectacular sunset, but witnessed one of the most actualizing and emotion-evoking experiences of my life.  I arose from my perch in Clore Garden and tried to hurry to Jaffa so I could catch the sunset from its hilltop view.  Putting my surroundings into focus, what I observed actually stopped me in my tracks.  In the same small expanse of park a multitude of sights yielded a uniquely Israeli scene.  In one area, Israeli men-- from very young to very old were playing soccer.  Beside them was a group of Arabs, presumably an extended family, grilling and laughing, clearly delighted by each other's company.  Steps away, on a rocky outcrop, a lesbian couple was making out.  Beyond them, African drummers attracted a small crowd adjacent to beach bums spinning fire batons.  Tourists on the deck of a trendy restaurant were snapping pictures of the sun being swallowed by the sea.  I felt invisible, and I was grateful for that.  The blend of people and activities were just as magnificent as the sunset.  In that instant I felt I was witnessing everything but nothing, all at once.  I truly had never felt more at peace. Maybe there was hope for this place.

As I walked away I passed, for the second time that day, a plaque marking the location of a suicide bombing that occurred barely more than ten years ago.


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