Sunday, April 4, 2010

Videos from Israel - uncut part 1

After finishing dinner at this awesome Italian restaurant located in an alley adjacent from an artist market in New Jaffa we wander off in the direction of an art exhibit (see video). The restaurant's ambiance was antique European cool-sat outside on the "patio" (which was the alley outside the restaurant), lit with strings of multi-coloured light bulbs. Had a spicy pasta dish which I needed two beers in order to consume it, as it was so hot. It was just one of those experiences you cannot find in your trusty Lonely Planet.

Tel Aviv - Carmel Market and Beyond

One thing I like to do while traveling is aimlessly wander city streets. Or for my more structured readers, go on self-made walking tours. However, I prefer my version, compared to the formal entity that will cost you anywhere from $20 to $75, as I can have a beer break whenever I want. And as you all know by now, I like things on my schedule.

One thing I have noticed since being in Tel Aviv, is there sure are a lot of bus tours. I can only guess this is due to a combination of (1) there is a lot to see; (2) people being too lazy to plan their own vacation; and, (3) an over stated fear of terrorist bombings. Although the latter is somewhat of a concern if you were living here maybe 10 years ago, there are security precautions today, such as any time you enter a public space (whether it is market or mall) a security guard will greet you to check your bags and swipe you if need be. That being said, I heard there was a time in Tel Aviv where you would frequently find soldiers holding machine guns on every corner...well, those days seem long gone. But hey, if you are one of those religious fanatics who wants to cram in every religious site in a week long 24/7 site seeing extravaganza (sites such as where Jesus last urinated before he was crucified) by all means take an organized tour.

So first we decide to head off to Carmel Market; best characterized as a place crowded with a sea of sweaty fleshy Israelis who come to purchase their wares and socialize with friends and family. Only a tad intimidating; but one thing to keep in mind, if you act like the Southern Ontarians you will get along just fine in Israeli society. Israelis self-identify as rude and pushy.

The mouth of the market is located at Kikar Magen David, which is a 6 street intersection that is supposed to represent the star of David but what I think is really just the opening to the market. So we enter the beast, remembering I am a person who cherishes her 3 feet of personal space!

Have you been to a market? And I'm not referring to the nice partitioned stalls of the Canadian kind, no I'm talking about the real deal. There is just no such thing as personal space in Israel, especially at a market. And once you enter the claustrophobic mass of people, all you can do to stay sane is keep walking because there is no turning back. We made it about half way through and took a side street in order to take a break from the masses (a drink was in order). We left with hopes of being around less people but instead were greeted with an adjacent artist market. Apparently we are in market hell or as they refer to it in Tel Aviv, the market district. (Click on photo to see the mass of people!)

We find our way out of the markets and to a nice restaurant where I can drink beer in the shade on the patio and recover by watching the daring driving maneuvers of the locals. Lots of blocking traffic, yelling and honking. Relaxation at last.

After the much needed beer we head off down Rothschild blvd, a several block long concrete promenade lined with cafes and gatherings of people. The concrete jungle is full of swing dancers showing off their moves, friends and families hanging out and mid-day house parties on the streets that run parallel to the promenade.

Then we take a turn at Sheinkin Street (boutique-lined interspersed with cafes), where pretty much anywhere serves as a great people watching spot. And what interesting people we saw. From the famous local tattoo-faced street person (who was on the cover of a local magazine at the time) to the cafe patrons with an inflated sense of self-purpose; much like back home! But enough of this minute-by-minute depiction of my day, I know what you really want...Let's talk fashion. As far as I can tell there is no serious fashion to consider here unless of course you like wearing printed and brand name shirts (think Coca-Cola tees and shirts with American sayings like "No you didn't!). Yeah, no you probably don't need me to elaborate much more than this. But hey obviously that's what's cool here and what do I know? All I do know is I don't like it. It reminds me of So-Mex fashion - tacky at best. And of course, as predicted, the Aviator glasses are in style as they are in the rest of the world - one point for the global capitalist free trade market.

So to cap off our afternoon of walking through Tel Aviv neighbourhoods we head to the nearest store and buy some beers; a good source of inspiration for when you're planning your next outing.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Welcome to Israel

"Andrea, you are a tailor-made, bearded, dink" - these are the words I hear from one of our travel companions, John.

He is sarcastically responding to some bullshit I spouted off while drunk. Just for your information, tailor-made refers to cigarettes, bearded refers to women who act as their gay friend's girl friend (e.g., date at best friend's wedding), because he hasn't come out of the closet yet & D.I.N.K. - dual income no kids. The later seems most true.

Although John occasionally blesses his friends with his witty commentary, he was also the one (of two) who got stuck in Israeli immigration for over an hour. Apparently telling Israeli authorities that you are unemployed and are unsure whether you will be visiting East Jerusalem does not guarantee you automatic entry into the State of Israel. And as I wait during this hour at the baggage pick-up, I serious think the Israeli's should consider constructing a bar here, since so many of us are stuck waiting for our travel companions to pass the rigorous security test. Of course, I had no problem getting through immigration but then I understand the mind of the immigration official - stereotypes. Show up with a significant other (hetero), act like a couple (hold hands, look enthralled with one another, bicker cutely), let the man talk at the immigration booth (i.e., women, only speak when spoken to) - guarantee entry ever time.

So besides the super secure airport passage, what is so unique about Israel? At this point in the blogging I have only experienced Tel Aviv and surrounding areas (e.g., Jaffa). So no great enlightening observations so far. So first off, it's warmer and there is a beach in Tel Aviv with real sand. Similar to Europe, drinking is allowed on the street, and makeshift BBQs can be used on public beaches. Pretty cool but not surprising-you've seen it all before, just somewhere else. Perhaps Tel Aviv is best described as the rest of the Western world except with Judaism acting as the backbone of the socio-cultural fabric instead of Christianity.

I was informed that Tel Aviv is considered the secular bubble of Israel. The rest of Israel is predominately orthodox Jewish (similar to beyond the urban limits of Canada - like Albertan oil tycoon ideology - or Texas for the rest of you).

"Israel, for its size, is the focal point for a lot of world bullshit."* Thank you for the astute observation John. This is the same guy who was accosted during breakfast for being from Canada and not knowing how to speak our second language - French. No not I, I do not get involved in such ridiculous conversations (or at least not so far). Not only John, but Kate (our other travel companion - who was part of the Israeli shakedown at the boarder) has also had the pleasure of experiencing some challenging dialogue. It was just this morning that she was confronted by a Christian who gave her a lecture on the recent bone discovery of Jesus remnants - "Well, he had to die sometime?" she offered as a condolence for the 20-minute tirade the Christian gave, which she cared nothing about. "I'm not going to be angry!" Chris, the Christian retorted, "Jesus ascended to heaven in flesh form - the bible does not lie!"

* Quick disclaimer: John quotations may or may not be entirely accurate, as I was quite hammered during our conversations.

Yes, Chris, of course he did, and maybe we will stop by your place later tonight to "hang out". Kate did everything in her power to be the polite Canadian that she is, and walked away from the fucked up shit that was Chris, without making a scene. Impressive. And Kate officially wins the "first encounter with a crazie" award on this trip.

But I digress....

Israel is all about the conflict, for sure. This is not economic based but cultural (i.e., religious and private property acquisition- land ownership). Think of all world wars - land ownership was the predominant issue of contention. But let's face it people, this ain't Iraq here, this is a mid-point between that and Quebec wanting to separate from Canada. I think Israel gets a lot of slack because, well they are predominately Jewish (ethnically at least, not necessarily religious-and yes, there is a difference), and they are engaged in a struggle with Palestinians (aka Muslims). Since 9-11, I think even your average Canadian knows what the current state of affairs (war) is about now, if they have any basic knowledge of world history. Cold war Communism exit stage left...the time is for the Muslim-Christian war. Like that shit ain't been going on forever!

So why do we equate Jews with Christians? I don't know if we do; but, we sure as fuck do seem to give them a lot of foreign aid. If I have learned nothing in my micro economics class, I know you don't get shit for free. But I really don't know how much more I can comment, except for the fact (from what I have read and discussed with the locals) - the majority of Israelis are not crazy religious freaks, they are just living their lives like the rest of us. Same issues just different geographies. Cheers, I will drink to that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Amsterdam part twee

Okay, back in Amsterdam. What is the first thing we should do? Travel to the red light district to check out the women of the night or find my gnome? Why not both?!

I know you find it surprising that I actually managed to do two things in one day; as I am prone to not rising until after 2pm. But I did. I got up at 9:30 am to receive my free Dutch-style breakfast. A meal very similar to the Continental, except the fruit (solid and liquid) are substituted with a hard boiled egg and ham & cheese. Then wandered off to find a business type centre (a place where you can use the Internet, print and fax all at the same time) to secure our rental location in Tel Aviv for the first week of the trip to Israel. After this, on the way to a coffee shop to have my daily fix of caffeine, I pass a market and catch the eyes of a gaggle of gnomes.

They are found intermixed amongst trash (or what some people call treasure), calling out with their sad eyes to be purchased. After viewing a few of them I saw the one I wanted. He was smoking a pipe in his right hand and holding a shovel with his left. He was obviously a gnome that worked hard but still enjoyed life. My type of gnome. But alas drinking coffee was the priority at this time and I left to consume copious amounts of coffee. After which I convinced myself that purchasing the gnome, even though I would have to lug him around the next three weeks through Israel, was necessary. As my first time around in Amsterdam resulted in no gnome purchasing, which saddened me considerably at the time. Mind you I never made it to a market the first time around, as of a result of me never rising before 2pm. But you know this story already.

Anyways, sorry for the ADD tangent. The point is, I bought the smoking gnome, and we got along great. Even the hotel manager where I was staying commented on the gnome purchase.

"You picked someone up while you were out?"

"Yeah," I laugh, "he was so cute I had to buy him."

The manager laughs. I start to think this dialogue, without the visual, could be understood as a man bringing a hooker back up to his hotel room (circa 1950s). Despite this attention and my eccentric nature, I decide not to take the gnome out for a tour of the red light district. After all, it is a 20-year old Dutch gnome, I'm sure he has seen it all before. So I leave him in the hotel room and he quickly situates himself on the window sill giving him a prime view of the canal. Which is fine, until he starts drinking my beer. When we got back 3 hours later, I found the gnome with a half-drunken bottle of Grolsch.

I didn't realize he was a drunkard; but then again, "smoking a pipe and working hard" is a gateway drug to becoming an alcoholic. The signs were all there, but it didn't matter, I was stuck with the gnome for the next three weeks. After which he will live with my other gnome on my balcony. The other gnome is Canadian...I believe the Dutch and the Canadian will get along just nicely.

Okay, enough about the gnome back to the other point of this blog post - the tour of the red light district. As most of my reader's know, I did not make it to the red light district on my first trip to Amsterdam. So I definitely had to go this time around. First observation, the red light district is exactly like the rest of Amsterdam except there are alive bikini clad woman offering themselves to you in the windows (not to be confused with Guess ads which are pictures of women offering themselves to you in windows). Second observation, there are more tourists milling about because of the real women offering themselves to men who have the mental likeness of prepubescent children. Thankfully it wasn't tourist season, so I could make my way down the street. Third observation, this is one of the only places in Amsterdam that has a McDonald's. Some would say a sign of a civilized society, i would say a sign of Western tourism-another form of world domination instead of war.

That was the extent of my observations this round. Didn't visit a sex museum and didn't visit a live sex show; I'm not interested that much in sex. So, we leave the liberated sex workers, to wander the streets of Nieuwmarket, a neighbourhood adjacent to the red light district. Some call it the ghetto, but I suspect this is only because the architecture is more modern than the 1600s style that dominates the old city.

In Nieuwmarket we come across some signage in the form of 8 foot tall letters spelling "I AMSTERDAM". How clever, if you aren't from Canada that is. Instead of a Molson's Canadian television ad, Amsterdam gets an ad in the form of public art. But not your typical type of art, this type you can actually engage with. People would spend up to 30 minutes climbing over the letters while posing for a friend's camera. The difference, from what we would experience in Canada, is in Amsterdam no one cared if people climbed on the letters. There were no signs telling them the risk of falling and breaking their head open, or prohibiting them from doing so because someone broke their head open once doing just that. Oh Canada, the risk adverse society. Pretty soon we will stop thinking for ourselves, and we will just demand that the government does so for us.

Fun fact. Where this public art ad is situated is the site where 400 years ago Amsterdam would conduct their public executions. Good times.

We have another coffee while viewing the public art ad and move on down the street. We end up on a corner where we are warned to look out for pickpockets. Finding the area not too sketchy, we sit down for a beer and take in the world of Amsterdam. Then we move onwards home, while passing another market, stopping for one more beer, and hitting the University's daily book sale.

Surprisingly the day did not end here, we went out to our favourite Indian restaurant in the Jordaan, known by me for their famed spinach, tofu and cheese dish (very good when needing to replenish the iron supplies), then picked up some more beers (since the gnome drank our last ones!). We then proceeded to drink in the hotel, when we got the idea in our head to see if a local bar was open. We honestly didn't think there would be since it was 1:30am and we were staying in the Jordaan (our favourite non-touristy Amsterdam neighbourhood). However, about a 7 minute walk away was a bar open until 3am with a smoke-easy upstairs. Heavenly! We stayed until three because we met some locals (a self-identified Ethiopian and German who had both been living in the A'Dam for the last 24 and 20 years respectively). I think that makes you a local? We chatted about Canada and its lack of dominance in the world political sphere. However, interestingly enough, both these locals felt Canada had no identity as a nation (as it was too young to have its own culture), while on the other hand, identified being Canadian as not-American. Kind of like Canadians do.

After our drunken discourse, we walk on home, and I sit and type this blog after 5am Amsterdam time, I think that is 8pm Canadian BC time (the day before). Tomorrow I begin another long journey, this time to Israel. Only at least this time I will be arriving at 2:30am Israeli time, just in time to go for a drink.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What happened in 2009 and what's to come for 2010...and why i hate people

First a disclaimer: What is a rant? According to it means this:

"to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave..."

So, if you don't like arguments or observations using outlandish statements, outrageous descriptive narratives, or vulgar graphic language then don't read a rant. Rants are designed to be over the top. Oh and definitely do not read a blog where somewhere in its title it says "RANTS". Such as this one. Still reading? Then I trust you are intelligent enough to do so. Also, I trust you are not easily offended and not one of those morons who thinks everything they read is about them because if you are do yourself a favour and fuck off. If you are one of the easily offended and you choose to still read this blog, I can not be held accountable for the fucked up ideas you get in your head after reading this. Nope, if you choose to read this, you will have to take responsibility for your actions. Okay you have been warned.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let the ranting begin!

It's almost the end of February, time is slipping away, yet it feels painfully slow. Mostly due to the 6-week cleanse I'm on, which is pretty good, except for the non-drinking part of it. Only three more weeks to go and I know it will be the longest three weeks of my life, which of course inspires me to delve into the micro-economics full time outside of work hours. It's a little obsessive I will admit but then again it is too painful to watch other people enjoying food and drink. Which makes work a good place, because every one at work eats crap and at the same time, ironically think they are eating healthy. No your microwavable entree is not going to help you loose weight but maybe if you got off your fat ass that would help! And no, buying the wrap at Tim Hortons is not healthy, it is just healthier than eating a donut. There is thinking at the margin for you.

Fuck people are stupid, that is why I always end up back in school because I am convinced that interacting with people who make roadkill look intelligent will slowly eliminate my brain cells. It is like watching Keanu Reeves movies on repeat 24/7. So there we have it, micro-economics it is.

So now for the ADD tangent, what happened in 2009.

I travelled to Havana, Cuba; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and, New Orleans, Louisiana, while you worked late (and no one cared) went home to a wife you can no longer fuck (because you are a loser) and a gaggle of children that if they don't already, hate your guts, because you are pathetic.

Do I sound like I'm boasting? Okay maybe a little, but it is only because I'm sick of the fuckers that are perpetually shocked that I have money to travel and then proceed to resent me for it because I didn't marry my loser high school sweetheart and pump out three children by the time I was 23. You made your life suck, don't blame me.

And no I don't need to drive a car because everything I need is within a 20 minute walking radius of where I live. Are you reading that and thinking "Oh my god 20 minutes that's a lifetime!" Yet that is the exact amount of time you spend at the gym, where you fit your oversized ass into your undersized pants and then pant away on a stair climber and collapse into exhaustion because you are grossly out of shape because you drive everywhere and that 20 minutes is all the exercise you get. Of course let's not forget the 1 minute sex session you and your husband have, once a year, that results in, wait for it, another baby! Another human you can blame all your failures on. How exciting for you.

Another great thing about not having a car, yeah I'm ranting here, just shut up and read, is that my 20 minute walking radius is full of beautiful vegetation all year round and an annual temperature that never falls below zero, and did i mention NO SNOW, and not an asphalt concrete jungle where the streets are lined with cookie cutter homes that were obviously the end product of the insane musings of some hack bullshit architect.

Yeah so don't pull me into your diluted, delusional self-justification of your moronic life choices. Don't try to convince me of the merits of owning a car, you're wasting your life on that. But I know it makes you feel better, to hold your decrepit mini van, slew of degenerate children and disgusting man child of a husband over me.

Oh back to the point of this blog - I started this blog in 2009, which has been fun and finished the first draft of my sci-fi novel, which was painful but gratifying.

Oh and work zombies don't see the point of writing either but then again they are too busy driving their children to hockey and soccer games and complaining about how busy their life is and how we should feel sorry for them because they haven't slept much because of their kids...

What else can we blame on the kids? How about Global Warming - all that driving your kids to activities is fucking contributing to that no doubt and of course all the waste your children produce in the form of toys. If you just cut out all those stupid plastic wallmart toys you and every other loser you met once and invited to your baby shower bought you (likely out of some misguided obligation to give a shit that your vagina can expand to squeeze something out of it the size of a watermelon) you would likely eliminate global warming. Okay maybe not but definitely it would reduce the problem.

Okay ranting done for now.

So what's in store for 2010?

Israel/Palestine trip - the photo and blog adventures will continue in the middle east, can't wait

Micro & Macro economics courses - makes understanding our bullshit world that much more layered - Thanks Adam Smith!

Work on draft 2 of sci-fi novel - this is not an option, this has to be done - maybe over the summer, while I sun on my balcony and spend my warm summer nights with my laptop drinking some wine and eating cheese (oh how i miss wine and cheese!)

These seem like noble goals. Oh, what's that?? Oh you noticed how having children and getting married to a washed up loser didn't make the list? Yeah, they didn't, you can have your crappy life, I'll keep mine because it's awesome.