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Sanity... fraying

It's my last night here in Israel, and I'm not sure I'm going to make it.

  • Everything I eat or drink turns my guts inside out except Coke

  • All I can find to eat near my hotel is (ironically) American fast food

  • I haven't been within 5000 miles of a good burrito in 2 weeks

  • My taxi drivers think it's amusing to almost crash and die 50 times during a brief drive

  • Everyone wants to know what I think of Israeli girls, and I'm sick of the question

  • I am powerless against the Hotel's cleaning staff

  • The doors at Mercury are all glass, and I walk into them and hurt my nose

  • I have meetings with people all the time, but most of the conference room names are in Hebrew

  • My kingdom for a shitty Dell QuietKey 101 with a USB adapter

  • Everyone here speaks English words, but they often don't know what they are saying

  • In particular, even some of the fluent English speakers here confuse the days of the week, so when they say "Friday", you just don't know what they really mean

  • I'd like to go someplace where carrying a backpack is not a crime

  • What is the sticky black shit all over the beach? (Or did I maybe answer my own question?)

  • I'm going to die if I can't drive a car soon

  • If my 12 hour flight is going to crash, I only hope that it does so NEAR THE BEGINNING of the flight.

1 day to go.

This just in

Apparently today is some kind of religious holiday (there's a shock) and so I will not realistically be able to find food in the city tonight when it's time to eat. My only hope is "secular room service". (?) So, it turns out that Israel is not a good place to be if you don't have a stove. Or at least a can opener.

4 days to go.

Maybe it WAS real

I guess I should mention that I've been to Jerusalem, and I've touched the stone that Jesus's body was laid upon after they took him down from the cross. You wouldn't think they'd just let you touch something like that...

Being there, seeing the old city, makes it seem more plausible that the mythology around which Christianity is built is maybe not mythology, not all of it. I mean, whether or not Jesus really was the son of God, or really was resurrected and sits at the right hand of the Father waiting for the time that will come to judge the living and the dead, that's clearly arguable.

But whatever you believe, it's difficult to stand there at the rock of Golgotha and say that someone just made it all up, that Jesus never existed, was never crucified. Jerusalem has been a city, an ordinary working city with generations of ordinary residents, from then to today with no interruption. It was never lost and then found, there was no single archaeologist who ever had an opportunity to falsify some artifact, to make up some lie about what the city was or where it was or who built it.

A whole city's worth of people have always lived there, and probably there are people there today who have had Jerusalemite anscestors for 2000 years. I guess it's possible that some army of the 4th century, or some cabal of men invented all of it, murdered all of their detractors, launched a campaign to snooker a whole city's worth of people.

But from an information control perspective it seems so hard to pull that off... carbon dating confirms that the city's age is at least authentic, so then you have a constant stream of foreign commerce, travellers every day for 2000 years corroborating the continuity of the city's history, integrating mention of it into the histories of other nations all over Asia and Africa. To track down all of the stories that conflict with your conspiracy and try to eliminate them after the fact, that just seems so unlikely that the simpler thing is just to take the Judeo-Christian version history more or less at face value.


A cultural thing

In case this wasn't clear by now, I'm in Israel. I suppose you want pictures, huh? Well, you have to wait until I'm 7000 miles closer to my copy of Photoshop.

And I've finally settled that age-old question: (A) do all Israelis talk on their cell phones while on the can in a public bathroom? Or (B) is that one guy at work just an asshole?

The answer is: A! Everyone does it! (This brings to mind questions of etiquitte surrounding what kind of sounds YOU are allowed to make when the guy in the adjacent stall is on the phone... this is why Martha recommends against the whole practice. But what the fuck does she know?)

And by the way, if you think Americans are rude/inconsiderate about the volume and character of their cellphone rings, you ain't seen nothin.

Okay, now it's war

It's a simple rule: when the card says "DO NOT DISTURB", simply do not attempt to enter the room. Do not knock. Do not inquire. Do not linger about the door frame wondering if the person inside wishes a final chocolate on the pillow before bed. Just GO THE FUCK AWAY.

As far as I have been able to tell, the following simple axiom holds true at the Tel Aviv Crown Plaza Hotel:

"Do not disturb" card hanging on doorknob = Nothing hanging on doorknob

The funny thing is, back when I wasn't putting the card out, they appeared to enter the room once a day and replace the towels.

Now that I'm putting the card out, they enter the room TWICE a day, rearrange my clothes, knock an additional time at a time carefully calculated to always coincide with my naps, and also steal my soap.

The only nice thing I can say is that this may be the only place in the world you can go where the hotel maids speak english. But it's small consolation.

Like a freight train

Another thing that's not really working for me is the food. (Or possibly the water). Sure, it TASTES good, but about 25 minutes later, it gets a bit ugly.

Update: Since last night I've switched to a strict "no-water, all drinks from sealed bottles" diet. This has appeared to, um, stem the tide, as it were. My guts still feel a bit twisted after a salad or produce, but at least I'm not losing weight anymore.

There, wasn't that charming?

Take me home

I'm sure you're all asking yourselves: is it possible to simply overdose on constant, overwhelming, half-naked, tanned, Mediteranean beach-frolicking sexiness?

Friends I'm here to tell you that the answer is a resounding YES.

First of all, an inevitable consequence of being surrounded by beautiful people is that you, relatively speaking, are ugly. I mean, in the bay area I'm actually sort of cute, but here? Shit, I may as well have a hump and an eye patch.

Second, it's a little jarring to at once see frolicking cuties, and then a second later realize that they are likely to be, given the country of their residence, fundamentalist, racist, and kind of violent. It's like spending 2 weeks in a bakery full of scrumptious-looking poisoned eclaires. Think you're going to want eclaires after this? Think again.

Do I, now?

I'm standing in the lobby of my hotel in Tel Aviv, waiting for the elevator. I'm jet-lagged and tired, and I have become adept at ignoring Hebrew all around me.

"Slih-hah?", I hear again, from behind me. I have no idea how I really should spell this, but I'm remembering now that it means "excuse me?" in Hebrew, so I turn around. At eye level I see two big swaying piles of dishes. Underneath the dishes is a girl, a waitress, squeezing herself and the dishes way into my personal space. She's cute and young. Everyone here is cute and young.

As I turn she looks right into my eyes and sprays some Hebrew at me. I stare blankly, and then after a second I say, "Sorry, I only speak English?" Her eyes roll, and then they glance toward the dishes that fill both her hands.

"Could you get the door for me?". Her English is clear and perfect.

"Oh, of course! Sorry." I open the door that it turns out I was blocking, and she rushes through. Not looking back, she says,

"Sorry, you looked Israeli."

Um, thanks?

More free things!

My friend Ed and I swindled each other. The swindling looked like this:

(I think the caption for this picture should be "Good and Evil", but really it's more like "Obviously Evil and Subtlely Evil".)

Basically, I proposed (and he agreed) that we swap our suspension setups on our otherwise identical cars. His suspension (now mine) were the JIC FLT-A2 Coilovers. Everyone I know who has had this product has eventually gotten rid of it because it is far too stiff to tolerate in daily driving. Ed, not being an exception to this rule, wanted to be able to drink coffee while his car was rolling, and coveted my stiffer-than-stock-but-reasonably-humane STi Red suspension. Here is what my new suspension looks like:

This new suspension is very low, very stiff, and very adjustable. Here's what the camber adjustment looks like:

Free things!

So, I it turns out that many, many people also had wheels just like mine, which cracked just like mine. The manufacturer's response to this problem is "OH MY GOD PLEASE DON'T SUE US!" And they manifest this attitude by replacing my wheels FOR FREE. So, although I didn't realize it, the last set of wheels that I bought for the car were really more of a wheel subscription. Here's the new style I got:

Ah, the beautiful elite

Is anyone else as infuriated by this ad as I am?

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